From OnIndus Team, Here is Chantel’s Experience of Attending Her First COAA Conference

Chantel Kelly

Chantel Kelly

Learning & Development Lead- Capital Programs

I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend the Construction Association of America (COAA) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 8-10th 2023.

Being it my first national conference, the experience was nothing short of amazing. From the moment it began, the conference delivered an electrifying start, with me winning a rock, paper, scissors competition with over 100 participants as an icebreaker activity.

My initial “victory” set the tone for the entire event. The networking became a breeze as attendees greeted me with warm words like “hey champ” and eagerly asked about my winning strategy. This instant connection eased my way into meaningful conversations and the exchange of valuable information. The breakout sessions offered a myriad of opportunities to learn and grow, allowing me to delve into various topics such as LEAN Coffee, resource management, and the power of women in construction.

Among the numerous enlightening sessions, two stood out for me: “How to Accelerate Innovation” and “In Her Own Words: The Power of Women in Construction.” The latter, facilitated by Tim Taylor, Director of Research for the National Center for Construction Education and Research, captivated my attention from the start. With his background in education, Tim skillfully highlighted the often-underrepresented skillsets that women bring to the construction industry. He shed light on the industry’s familial nature, where generations of families have dominated the field, limiting access and diversity.

OnIndus Team

This eye-opening session made me realize that many individuals, like myself, are unaware of alternative career paths in construction. These trades, such as welding, elevator installation, and brick masonry, are often passed down through mentorship and apprenticeship. Inspired by Tim’s talk, I shared my own experiences as a teacher and emphasized the importance of starting these conversations and programs earlier in a student’s life.

Following the conference, I connected with Tim Taylor on LinkedIn, continuing the conversation and hope to explore avenues for collaboration.

The serendipity of attending a construction conference and having my favorite session facilitated by a speaker named Tim Taylor, reminiscent of the beloved “Tool Time” host, was not lost on me. It added a touch of humor and nostalgia to the overall experience.

Another session that left a lasting impression on me was “How to Accelerate Innovation”. Amidst the discussions around Artificial Intelligence and my aspirations to leverage AI for updating the training programs at OnIndus’, this session sparked an exhilarating excitement within me. The interactive nature of the session, led by RJ Reed, Vice President of Project Delivery Innovation at The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, allowed all the attendees to stay attentive throughout the session. Through engaging group activities and thought-provoking discussions, the session centered on the profound impact of AI in the construction industry. It was inspiring to witness the collective enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, further fueling my own passion for exploring the potential of AI.

During this session, I got the opportunity to connect with Lester J. Felder, the Campus Construction Assistant Director of the Research and Sciences Team at the University of Texas. Lester shared his struggles with change management, a common concern in the construction industry that is constantly evolving. We have since connected through email, and have plans to meet soon to continue our exchange of insights.

In a nutshell, my experience at the COAA conference was an adventure that brought together professionals from across the construction industry. It was an exhilarating journey of networking, learning, and engaging with passionate individuals. Just as rock beats scissors, the conference broke through barriers and preconceived notions, paving the way for innovation, inclusivity, and progress.

With this fantastic first experience, I am excited to attend future COAA conferences, ready to discover the amazing opportunities that lie ahead in the construction industry and connect with more individuals in it.

From OnIndus Team, Here is Chantel’s Experience of Attending Her First COAA Conference

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