GZA's Yearly In-House Technical Conference

On an annual basis, most of our employees congregate at a corporate retreat for a weekend of information sharing that provides an excellent platform for internal networking, cross-training and the synergistic sharing of ideas. The following article was written about the 2015 Technical Conference and it really gives you a feel for what the Conference is all about.  Also, check out the photo gallery.

Save the Date for GZA’s “Greatest Day”
GZA’s In-House Technical Conference 2015
By Stephanie Van Ness

Mark your calendars for March 7, 2015, when GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. is set to hold its annual technical conference at the Babson Executive Conference Center in Wellesley, Mass. Often referred to without hyperbole as the greatest single day of the year at GZA, this pivotal event unites the GZA community while offering employees at every level the opportunity to share unique technical experiences, learn about noteworthy projects occurring throughout the entire organization, network with colleagues from near and far, and recognize outstanding project team performances.

“This conference affords us the chance to showcase projects executed across GZA’s entire footprint,” explained Senior Principal Mike Shaw. “The information presented is compelling and the opportunity to network with colleagues from every corner of the company is unparalleled. The event also offers a great learning opportunity for GZA personnel. The technical sessions are very informative, and employees are often able to earn continuing education credits toward certain professional certifications by attending.”

Growing Popularity
Since its inception in the 1980s, the conference has grown so popular that last year more than 300 employees – or around 60 percent of GZA’s workforce  – voluntarily gave up a precious Saturday to spend on the Babson campus. “This conference offers a unique blend of learning and networking opportunities for those at GZA,” said Senior Project Manager Brian Morrill. Added Shaw, “By showcasing new technologies and shining a light on some of our most interesting projects we enhance awareness among our internal audience of what GZA can accomplish, as well as position the company as a thought leader in our very competitive industry.”

“And the conference also affords us the chance to recognize excellence within our ranks via our Practice Excellence Awards and Graphics Awards,” Morrill explained. “All employees – from recent hires to senior staffers – are eligible to submit abstracts for consideration. This year the nominating committee received 64 submissions from across GZA. Fifty-nine of these abstracts were submitted for consideration as presentations, while many were also submitted for awards.”

For the 2015 event, 28 abstracts have been chosen for presentation – 27 for the concurrent tracks and one for the keynote presentation, which is attended by all conference registrants. As for the awards, they are bestowed based on three primary factors - technical excellence (30%), management achievement (30%), and exceeding client expectations (40%). As a recent addition, awards are also given for quality graphics.

First, second and third place winners are named in a variety of technical categories, and projects of all sizes are represented. Not only do winners receive company-wide recognition but also coveted prize money. “The project teams win money that can be spent in any way the team chooses,” Morrill said. “Some elect to divvy the winnings among team members, while others choose to pool the funds to spend on something that can be enjoyed collectively, for example a great dinner.”

A Look Back
What is today referred to as the “Technical Conference” – which represents the full range of GZA services, as well as a unifying presentation that crosses company lines – began life as two separate conferences, one for environmental services and a separate event focusing on geotechnical engineering. “The first enviro-only conference was held back in April 1988 and was quickly followed by a geotechnical conference the following fall,” Shaw said.

It was in 2001 that the company decided to merge the conferences. “GZA had recently re-emerged as a private company and was looking for a way to capture that renewed spirit and sense of focus,” Shaw explained. “Merging the conferences was the logical step, although it took several years to become the integrated event that it is today.”

“These days, we offer concurrent sessions focused on interesting geo- and enviro-centric projects, with a primary ‘feature’ presentation in the afternoon that represents a major project of significance to the entire company – the type of project that really stands head and shoulders above the rest,” Morrill said. “Some years it is a project that illustrates new and innovative technology or creative thinking, while in others it is a project that is simply so vast it warrants special attention.”

Both Morrill and Shaw agree that the annual conference represents the best of GZA and that attendees are guaranteed to come away with a strong sense of what the company is all about. “That’s why we encourage everyone – and particularly new hires, recent grads and those who may be new to the industry – to attend,” Morrill said. “We know they will leave Babson with a better sense of – and tremendous appreciation for – the breadth and quality of the work we do at GZA.”