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One year flew by since Shannon Conaway began his presidency of ACEC’s Orange County (ACEC-OC) Chapter. Shannon Conaway, one of the founding partners of Conaway Geomatics, knew his new firm needed to be a part of ACEC.  Over his career, Shannon had the pleasure of working for firms that were involved with ACEC. He saw the benefits ACEC membership brought to those firms and knew his new firm would find tons of value in being a member.  In a recent conversation with Shannon, I learned about his journey as president of ACEC-OC, his drive to serve on the board, and his insights into his next steps.

Commitment to Excellence

Running a small business, being an ACEC member firm, and dedicating time to a board require significant commitment. So, what inspired Shannon to become the ACEC-OC Chapter President? Shannon shared, “I have a personal philosophy that one should participate and not just be a bystander of a group or organization he is a member of.”

Shannon’s leadership journey within ACEC-OC began in 2021 when he was invited to join the board. In 2022, he was asked to join the Executive Committee as Secretary. The plan was for Shannon to spend four years progressing through the ranks. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, he rapidly advanced from Secretary to Vice President within a year. By 2023, he was sworn in as President, surrounded by a supportive group of dedicated A&E professionals. Together, they navigated challenges and celebrated successes throughout the fiscal year 2023-2024.

Driving Future-Focused Leadership

Shannon believes his most significant contribution as Chapter President was helping the Orange County chapter focus on the future. The A&E industry is constantly evolving, presenting challenges in sparking interest in the profession, recruiting new talent, and supporting the businesses within the industry. Shannon shared, “My biggest influence this year was helping the board prioritize the future. Engineering and land surveying is a dynamic field, crucial for supporting the world’s growing infrastructure needs. There’s a pressing demand for emerging professionals to help our industry meet this growth. Additionally, a key to ACEC’s survival is continually recruiting and encouraging new, young companies to join ACEC. Doing this ensures diversity, chapter growth, and fosters new relationships for everyone involved.”

Navigating Challenges Together

Adapting and overcoming challenges is always difficult, especially when working with a voluntary board of high-performing professionals with busy schedules. Shannon explained, “Coordinating 23 professionals with full-time jobs was a significant challenge. It was essential to be adaptive and respectful of everyone’s time while organizing the chapter’s meetings and monthly events. Balancing our responsibilities required flexibility and a lot of teamwork.”

Advocacy for the Industry

ACEC plays a crucial role as an advocate for the A&E industry. As an ACEC member organization, we benefit from strong support at both the state and national levels. Ensuring our voices are heard on policies impacting our industry is vital for its continued growth. Shannon elaborated, “We’re fortunate to have dedicated lobbyists advocating on our behalf. They champion legislation that enhances our industry while opposing measures that could impede our progress. Ultimately, this benefits the entire industry, whether affiliated with the ACEC or not. Given the rapid global growth, our expertise is essential in meeting the escalating infrastructure demands. Serving on the ACEC-OC Executive Committee allowed me to contribute to statewide and national initiatives. This advocacy enables ACEC member firms to focus on client needs, business expansion, and attracting the next generation to this dynamic industry.”

Advice to Young Professionals

Shannon strongly encourages young professionals to consider joining ACEC member firms and taking on leadership roles within these organizations. Once you become a member, he advises, “Get involved! The benefits of being part of ACEC are extensive. Membership helps safeguard our industry and creates opportunities for aspiring professionals seeking a challenging yet rewarding career. Within ACEC, you’ll find a supportive community dedicated to advancing our field. Moreover, you’ll build professional networks that can bolster your career for years to come. While education provides the practical, hands-on skills, understanding how to apply them in a business context will accelerate your career growth.”

What Will Shannon Miss the Most

Reflecting on his tenure as ACEC-OC Chapter President, Shannon expressed, “Fortunately, I will continue serving as Immediate Past President for the next year, supporting the incoming President through the challenges of the 2024-2025 term.” However, what Shannon will miss the most are the monthly luncheons. These gatherings feature insightful speakers who share valuable perspectives on upcoming projects and how ACEC members can contribute effectively. Shannon particularly enjoyed hosting and MCing these events, relishing the opportunity to connect with speakers and entertain the audience. He remarked, “I’m in my element when I get to be in front of people, crack jokes, and entertain. I’m grateful for the time and insights our speakers have shared with us.”

What’s Next?

As his presidency draws to a close on June 30th, Shannon eagerly anticipates his upcoming roles as ACEC-OC Immediate Past President and California State Board Director. “I am excited to broaden my horizons by addressing issues in California and supporting ACEC National efforts wherever possible. Alongside these responsibilities, I am eager to cultivate the valuable relationships I’ve developed over the past year. While I am evolving within ACEC, I remain committed to supporting others on their journeys within the organization.” Shannon Conaway’s tenure as ACEC-OC Chapter President has exemplified dedication, impactful leadership, and a steadfast commitment to the future of the engineering and land surveying industry. His journey stands as an inspiration for current and future ACEC members alike.