ConferencesPractical Leadership

The Stories in Stacks of Business Cards

This week I’m pleased to bring you my guest post on the Society of American Military Engineer’s Bricks & Clicks Blog. Be sure to click the link and show them some love!
Photo courtesy of SAME

Every time I come back from the Society of American Military Engineers Joint Engineer Training Conference (“JETC”), I find myself sorting through a stack of business cards. Each one of those cards tells a story: a new person I’ve met or a colleague I’ve reconnected with after not seeing for a while. In those stacks of business cards, there’s the thread of my story that’s connected with others in the Society.

That connection with others in the community is the thing I love most about coming to what I humbly believe is the best annual conference of any professional organization. There are lots of great conferences out there, but I think JETC is special.

What Makes Us Special

“We are establishing at this time a Society of American Military Engineers. This society will serve no selfish purpose. It is dedicated to patriotism and national security. Its objects are, in brief, to promote solidarity and co-operation between engineers in civil and military life, to disseminate technical knowledge bearing upon progress in the art of war and the application of engineering science thereto, and to preserve and maintain the best standards and traditions of the profession, all in the interests of patriotism and national security.” –The Military Engineer magazine, January 1920

Like many professionals, I belong to several professional societies and service organizations. They all have their virtues of course, but the chief virtue of SAME is its enduring purpose: dedicated to patriotism and national security. Most professional associations exist for the primary benefit of the members. Professional growth, networking, and of course community service are all worthy goals. The thing about SAME is that both those in government and in industry are committed first to national service in the defense of our country.

It’s the calling of engineers whose credo is to first serve the public good. It’s that common sense of mission and purpose that creates a community of some of the best people I know. It’s what makes us special.

Always Learning

Another thread revealed in that stack of business cards is the memories of the talks I heard, and conversations had over those three days at the 2018 JETC in Kansas City. It’s interesting how the subject matter and education tracks have evolved over time.

This year, there were more and more sessions about the implementation of digital and disruptive technology that gives our government colleagues and industry teammates a competitive edge in an increasingly complex global defense environment. It’s always fun to see a card and reflect on the conversations we had during JETC, and see the continuous evolution of our profession and our Society is energizing to watch.

Rewards, Friendships, Heroes

A member of the SAME National Office staff once referred to JETC as a “SAME love fest.” When I smiled and asked what she meant, she explained that because of the social events, the Post awards, and the Society Ball, it was a chance for the members to reconnect and show their affection and appreciation for each other.

She is right: the mood of the conference reflects that sense of community and collegiality. It’s fun to see people recognized for their tremendous work to further the profession and grow the Society’s reach. I particularly enjoy seeing people I know who have worked without fanfare or seeking recognition heralded publicly for their contributions.

Looking Forward to Next Year

Of course, it goes without saying the keynotes are always inspiring, this year particularly so. As a “Greyshirt” myself, meeting Team Rubicon founder Jake Wood and hearing his story of continued service was motivating. It’s experiences like that, along with the opportunity to renew old friendships as well as make new ones, that speak to me from those stacks of business cards.

The call for presentations for the 2018 Small Business Conference is already out, and there’s a lot of business that gets done at that one, so don’t miss it. Of course, the 2019 JETC in Tampa, Fla., is just around the corner as well: less than 350 days and counting!

I should have worked my way through all those cards by then.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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