Collaborate 2020: A Packed Virtual Conference

Viewpoint's Collaborate 2020 virtual conference was packed with industry and technical information. Read the full scoop here.
By Rachel E. Pelovitz
September 23, 2020

During Viewpoint's Collaborate 2020, which took place Sept. 22-23, industry experts highlighted the latest construction best practices and technologies. In their largest-ever attended conference, those dialing into user sessions gained continuing education credits, as well as perspective from peers and Viewpoint experts.

Day one: Keynote

The opening keynote featured Chairman and CEO Manolis Kotzabasakis, who swiftly debunked a series of "myths" hovering over the construction industry:
• Digital transformation takes a long time.
• Cyber security is not a good enough reason to move to the cloud.
• The construction industry is not ready for full digital transformation.
• You can’t get real-time jobsite data in order to make timely decisions.
• Single, comprehensive software suites are expensive.

Day two: Keynote

The keynote speaker on day-two, Chris Gardner, set about debunking a different myth entirely: that the American Dream is no longer attainable. In his speech, "Hard Pivots, Atomic Times and a New Vision of the American Dream," Gardner, known for his memoir The Pursuit of Happyness, started off in a home of abuse and transitioned into a single father, plagued by homelessness. Determined to succeed, he changed his life and became a stockbroker during one pivotal year when he was 28 years old.

Gardner quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying, "If you can’t walk, crawl. Keep going." Gardner believes that personal responsibility is critical and, despite life's challenges, it's never too late to take ownership of one's choices and make changes for the better. His biggest realization occurred while washing his son in a train station bathroom. "I drove here," he remembers thinking, "and that means I can drive myself out." He encourages listeners to modify King’s thinking—if the way out of a difficult problem includes baby steps, so be it.

Regarding the current pandemic, and how to weather this particular situation, Gardner opines on comments that we are all in the same boat.

"We are not all in the same boat," he says. "We are in the same storm." While many employees are able to work from home, not all construction employees have that luxury. And those employees may be in a better situation that first-responders, who put their lives on the line each day.

"There is also a boat of people who don’t believe we are in a storm," Gardner says. But he reminds listeners that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the first time change has occurred for the American workforce—9/11, the 2008 economic crash—and it likely won’t be the last.

Changes like those—Gardner refers to them as "hard pivots"—create a unique workforce. "We're all fishing from the same pool of talent," he says. Gardner discusses idealism as a mindset, choice as a decision and ambition as a goal to master.

"What is your human capital strategy?" he asked attendees. Gardner also speaks to middle and high school students, encouraging them to reach their full potential at an early age. If students realize their worth, then corporate America will need to step up its game.

"I believe when you change the narrative, you can change the outcome," he says.

Day one: Sessions

On Day One of the conference, one of the sessions included "Top Tips for Building a Diverse & Inclusive Workplace." Panelists from Dome Construction and Sellen Construction discussed the social and business benefits of strong diversity and inclusion programs, as well as how to improve these programs as society evolves over time.

"I don’t know of any partner in the HR world that feels like their work is done in this area, and it’s a calling to do more work," says Sellen Construction’s Kate Harkess, senior vice president and director of human resources.

Day two: Sessions

Day Two of the conference included another diversity session, this time on women in construction. "Succeeding at Winning: Hard Hats, Strong Women, Building the Future" was a look into the career paths of three successful women: Diane Byron, president of I.E. Pacific Inc., Rachael Gonzalez, director of business development for West Coast Air, and Kristen Williams, principal at Leighton Group.

The discussion included advice for women in the industry, veterans and newbies alike. "There are a lot of people who want to see women succeed in the industry," says Gonzalez, who has always felt supported and encouraged by her peers, despite lingering stigma and pay gap concerns.

"Women in the industry used to be such a small percentage, but that is not so much the case anymore," says Williams. She discussed the import of female mentorship and the impact it’s had on her career. "I’ve been really grateful to have so many incredible relationships," she says.

"I sit on a national board and have friends across the country and wouldn’t have had the chance to meet, should I not have joined this industry," says Byron, a member of ABC’s Executive Committee. With many associations and ways to get involved, volunteer and contribute, she has appreciated this community most during her construction career. She advises listeners to start recruiting in grade school and middle school because "a lot of the girls don’t even know it’s an opportunity."

Recorded sessions on project management, lean construction, data analysis and tech integration are available at

by Rachel E. Pelovitz

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