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Advancing the business of engineering

After working in the engineering profession for more than four decades, I recently had the honor and privilege of standing before 1,600 of my colleagues in the engineering industry as the incoming chairman of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). It was an amazing and humbling experience for me and one of the highlights of my career.

I was honored and privileged to deliver my first speech as chairman of the American Council of Engineering Companies at its annual convention and legislative summit in Washington, D.C.

In that moment, as I addressed attendees at ACEC’s annual convention and legislative summit in Washington, D.C., I was grateful to those who helped inspire, guide and prepare me for this role, personally and professionally. It started with my parents and older brother, who immigrated to the U.S. when I was only one year old. It extends to my wife, Rosemary, my two children, Anna and Carlo, and includes leaders, mentors and colleagues who have helped me cultivate a passion for engineering, business and, most importantly, people.

Our late company founder, Walter Hanson, left, was one of my first mentors. He encouraged me to study engineering in college, championed my education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and hired me to work at his firm, which is now the company I’m proud to lead as chairman and CEO.

One of the first mentors I had was Walter Hanson, who founded Walter E. Hanson and Associates, which later became the company I lead as chairman and CEO, Hanson Professional Services Inc. Walt encouraged me to study engineering in college and pursue it as a career. He gave me an opportunity to work at the firm as a high school student, where I ran errands and did various jobs around the company. That experience gave me a firsthand look at how engineering projects worked, how engineers worked through processes and how people worked together to complete important projects and accomplish great things.

Advancing the business of engineering is not only ACEC’s focus, but it’s also been a driving force for me during my career as an engineer and business leader. ACEC represents thousands of companies and is the voice of the engineering industry in Washington, D.C., and throughout the nation. ACEC’s President and CEO Dave Raymond was recently quoted by CNN, Politico and Reuters about proposed legislation and infrastructure issues. This goes right along with ACEC’s mission to strengthen the business environment for its member firms through government advocacy, political action and business education.

“Advancing the business of engineering is not only ACEC’s focus, but it’s also been a driving force for me during my career as an engineer and business leader.”

 — Sergio “Satch” Pecori, P.E.
ACEC chairman and
Hanson chairman and CEO

As the fourth president, CEO and chairman in Hanson’s 63-year history, I was fortunate to learn from and work with these intelligent, insightful and inspiring engineers, leaders and businessmen, including, Walter Hanson, left, Gene Wilkinson, second from right, and Leo Dondanville.

Looking at the year ahead, I’m optimistic about the prospects for ACEC and member firms. This year, we’ll work closely with our members to address industry contracting and technology issues, including public-private partnerships (P3s), lump sum contracting and the impact of technology on workforce requirements as well as infrastructure funding and regulatory reform.

In project delivery, we are looking at trends in design-build and P3s, including how to resolve potential conflicts of interest between the contractors, owners, design professionals and financial entities.

We are accustomed to working for the project owner, a state agency or a municipality. However, working under the design-build and P3 project-delivery methods presents new challenges for engineering companies.

We know that technology is replacing more and more functions formerly carried out by humans. How will this impact our future engineering practices, including how we are going to get paid? I have long been a proponent of lump sum pricing as an alternative to selling hours in an effort to drive innovation.

I also am a strong supporter of ACEC’s educational and business programs. Whether it’s contract documents, business seminars or research on important business issues, I believe in making these resources as widely available to our membership as possible.

This year, we have opportunities to change things for the better. As engineer, inventor and businessman Charles Kettering said, “There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”

I look forward to a great year of progress, collaboration and success as we advance the business of engineering in our communities, country and world.

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