How to Be a Leader with Mark Dorsey

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CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute, Mark Dorsey, joins the Young Architect Podcast to share how he went from a background in communications and working for the National Ski Patrol and Professional Ski Instructors of America to the becoming involved in the construction industry.

Mark Dorsey | CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Mark went to school at the Lewis and Clark College to study Communications. While there, he helped improve student life by revamping their student body government system for a better, improved model of academic funding including biology research, course evaluation, and tutoring.

He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his educational background in communications but his work experience eventually led him to become the Marketing Director and then the COO of the National Ski Patrol before becoming the CEO for the Professional Ski Instructors of America.

Before he made the switch from the skiing to the construction industry, he made sure that he was well-prepared. Since becoming the CEO for the Construction Specifications Institute, he has learned valuable life skills for leading a group of individuals, what it takes to create a wonderful association for its members, and the importance of being positive and open to new opportunities that come your way.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How he helped improve student life and the academic atmosphere at Lewis and Clark College.
  • The job and work culture differences he has witnessed between the skiing industry to the construction industry.
  • What questions he asked himself to make sure working in the construction industry would be a good fit for himself before making the switch.
  • The importance of focusing on learning on how to learn during college instead of just aiming for your degree.
  • Improvements he has helped make within CSI including CSI Connect since he’s joined the organization.
  • The importance of seeking associations that are outside of your comfort zone for professional development.
  • What steps young professionals can take in their career path and how to get through frustrating experiences.
  • How difficult situations can help you develop self-awareness about who you are and what you want to do in your career.
  • The power of being patient as a young professional in any industry.
  • Decision making in a group compared to on your own.
  • How he works together with his board of 15 people to try to move in the same direction when everyone has different viewpoints and backgrounds.
  • CSI’s purpose for the industry, community, and professionals.
  • Life lessons he’s learned from working with people who have different personalities.
  • The importance of being positive and open to new opportunities when times get tough.
  • What he’s learned about being patient by working and managing in small group scenarios.
  • The heart of what the term, ‘association’ is really about.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Be patient as you move through your career but look for opportunities to grow. A frustrating work environment or experience can actually be a way to help you learn more about yourself and focus more on what you want to do with your career.
  2. Look for an association that’s going to support you with a community and resources. The association is your tribe so make sure it’s one that you feel comfortable with and one that allows you to share your voice as well.
  3. Focus on learning how to learn because that skill is going to be very useful in the future when you take on a new job role, become promoted, or even switch to a completely different industry.

Mark Dorsey’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Stay open and stay learning because that is ultimately how you add value to yourself and to your firm. The more you focus on learning something just because your boss has already learned it, the more likely you are to end up selling yourself short. So, staying focused on the impact of your work and how you’re going to set yourself up to further that impact.”

“You never know where your career is going to take you. I ended up running a business with really no business training and yet I bounced through that experience, added to my skillset, and went outside of my comfort zone to wind up being the CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute.”

Favorite Quotes

“At a certain point, you’re trying to transfer skills to a new set of problems. So, while at college, I think a lot of people focus on their degree as opposed to learning how to learn. If you learn how to learn and are able to adapt and listen in order to take in information, that helps. It really helped make my job change from the skiing to the construction industry easy. CSI members have a number of the same challenges but it’s truly a different industry.” – Mark Dorsey on the importance of learning how to learn and adding that to your list of skills.

“If the root of association is to associate then what associations have in common is that community and how people associate and the value they get out of an association. There’s a certain content as well that only an association can provide but a national organization primarily exists for the purpose of being that connector so that people in a community can connect and communication much more easily.” – Mark Dorsey on the benefits and differences between associations and national organizations.

“Associations tend to be slower to act because of their structure but they’re evolving because many associations have their roots and civic organizations that were formed either pre or post World War 2 such as the Lion’s Club. However, there are fast-moving associations that are popping up and there’s practically an association for everything. Each association has a place and definitely a voice that’s effecting change from within and then they’re also building an outside influence. Both of these factors are equally important because a good association is going to have a sense of community. It’s the associations that want to try to over control community that have a much more difficult time because you want to see yourself reflected in the group you belong it; it’s your tribe.” – Mark Dorsey on the evolution of associations and what makes one valuable to the industry.  


Resources Mentioned in the Show


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, and the creator of Young Architect, an online platform and community dedicated to helping the next generation of Architects become the most successful generation of Architects. 
Connect: Linkedin / Facebook / Instagram

Hi there!

I’m Michael Riscica, the guy behind Young Architect. I write to help Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and Young Architecture Professionals be more successful at school, work and life!


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