Cheerleaders, Mentors, Colleagues

One of my biggest cheerleaders recently passed away. I never got to meet him in person, although we corresponded via email occasionally, and talked on the phone sometimes.

Ralph Liebing was 78 years old, but still worked every day. He was an architect and a specifier; he did the same work that I do. I subscribed to his weekly newsletter; he frequently commented on my blog posts. We often wrote about the same topics: construction specifications and the education and training of emerging design professionals. He had a long history of teaching in architecture and technical schools. We worked together on a volunteer effort for CSI, for a Building Technology Education Program.

Ralph encouraged me in my blog writing, and in our efforts on the Building Technology Education Program. He really reached out to me, sending me an occasional little quiz on some building assembly or another, telling me about his family, congratulating me on mentions in CSI publications, and emailing me the occasional “Have a great weekend,” or forwarded curiousity. I own 2 of the 11 textbooks that he authored. I tried to teach him a little about social media, updated him on Denver’s weather, and told him about my family.

He worked for an architecture and engineering firm; I am independent. I don’t work with other specifiers; I don’t even work with other architects in my office. This is part of why Ralph was so important to me. As an independent, I am on my own in my work. But when I joined CSI, I found that I’m not really alone. CSI brought me Ralph, and other people who have helped me along the way in my career.

I had been writing specs for over a year when I joined CSI. I knew about CSI, because I’d taken the CDT exam before I started writing specs.

When I started writing specs, I worked as an independent contractor to a specifications firm that had employees and independent contractors, but I did my work mostly at home. My kids were little, 2 and 4 years old. I hadn’t worked for 4 and a half years. My husband’s business was a major source of stress for me at the time. I was busy BEFORE I started working in specifications, but I fit the work in. CSI wasn’t emphasized by the spec writer I worked for, and joining a professional organization was NOT on my to-do list. I barely had time to sleep, sometimes.

After 8 months of being an independent contractor, I was fully on my own. One day, one of my clients mentioned something about my being “in the loop” with CSI, and I realized that I needed to GET in the loop in order to be my best at my work. I owed it to my clients. So I finally joined CSI, but it was months before I made time to get to a Chapter meeting!

After I started going to meetings, and meeting other CSI members, I quickly realized how important my CSI involvement is to my work. I’ve found a network of colleagues, with technical knowledge about construction, that is essential to me. I’ve been extremely lucky to find mentors in CSI all across the country who have offered me various types of challenging and rewarding opportunities that have helped me in my career. And I found a very special cheerleader in Ralph Liebing. Ralph was important to many other people in the same way. He will be greatly missed in our CSI community.

I never expected these relationships that I’ve found through CSI. These relationships are the main reason that CSI rocketed from being something I made myself find time for, to being something vital to my career.

5 thoughts on “Cheerleaders, Mentors, Colleagues

  1. Liz, my only interaction with Ralph was during conference calls for our BTEP project with CSI. Just from those calls it was clear that he was a wealth of knowledge and experience. He was willing and eager to share his knowledge but just as important he was ready to challenge the group and push everyone involved to focus their efforts on achieving our stated goals. Our world is a bit smaller now without Ralph.

  2. Each time we lose an elder statesmen of our profession, I think on the loss of knowledge and how badly we need Gene Roddenberry’s mind meld to preserve it. Until then, we must continue to strive to at least learn enough from them not to repeat their mistakes. I tell intern architects that comment about the amount of building knowledge I have accumulated, “The only difference between you and I is that I have already made the mistakes that you don’t know exist yet.”

  3. I had the pleasure to know Ralph and work with him over many years, projects. I can’t imagine how many people he touched. I am thrilled to count myself as one of them. Liz, you are never alone as long as you have the CSI network. It’s a great family of professionals. Reach out anytime.

  4. Ralph Liebing sounds like a really interesting person to have known, how lucky you are. Now I’m interested in knowing more about him. Already after skimming the web & reading a bit about him, and reading a Perspective article, I’m left with the encouraging notion that specifying is a truly noble profession!

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