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2021 Class of Fellows Q&A with Susan Bliss

By Peter Kray posted 08-03-2021 07:02 PM


The CSI Jury of Fellows has selected three new members to the 2021 Class, including Susan Bliss, CSI, CDT®, CCS®, CCCA®.

Susan was nominated through a rigorous application process, then elected by the Jury of Fellows for membership. Fellowship is one of the top two honors given by the Institute.

Susan will be inducted during the CSI Celebrates taking place at the CSI National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., on September 23, beginning at 5:30 pm at the Grand Hyatt Nashville. Here, Susan shares what the honor means to her, and how she has contributed to—and benefited from—her membership in CSI.


What does being a member of the 2021 Class of Fellows honorees mean to you? 

This is so emotional it is difficult to express. I am excited, appreciative, and humbled as well as aware of the responsibility that goes with this. I commit to continue to represent CSI in a manner that draws others to the organization and into service.


Fellowship acknowledges contributions to the advancement of construction technology. Of all your contributions to CSI, which of them are most significant to you? 

I’m thankful for all the areas where I’ve had the opportunity to participate, but the most significant to me, especially at this season of life, is the training of young specifiers – bringing them into the industry and providing a rewarding career. Several have achieved their CDT and CCS. Seeing them follow me into membership and service to CSI is rewarding. Two of my “young-uns” are now serving this year in Chapter Board positions.


What was your first job in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Owner (AECO) industry? 

I started as a receptionist/secretary to a one-man architectural firm in a small town. This gave me an opportunity to learn all areas of an architectural practice. That experience gave me a great foundation on which to build.


What has been your favorite aspect of making your career in this field? 

Learning and teaching. One never knows it all. I’ve expressed that sometimes I’ve been stressed and exhausted, but I’ve never been bored with so much to learn every day. Turning around and passing on knowledge to those who are coming behind me is energizing and pushes me to dig ever deeper including how to make things better. A consistent question I ask myself and my team is “How can we do this better?” Additionally, my career has allowed me to build long-term relationships with clients, other specifiers, and product representatives.


How has being a member of CSI informed your life and career? 

In countless ways! I cannot imagine my career without CSI. My passion for education is certainly here, but just as important are the relationships built throughout the years. That’s a winning combination.


Is there anyone you would like to recognize for supporting the work you do? 

Before I answer that question within the industry, I must acknowledge my husband, Rob Bliss. He is the coach, cheerleader, inspiration, and innovator that has made my businesses what they are today.


Within the industry there are too many to name, but here are a few: Doug Hartman who has been my boss, mentor, friend, teacher, consultant, and wise advisor for 25 years. Others in the Dallas Chapter that have been long-term mentors and encouragers are Richard Robinson, Dennis DeLisse, Frank Fuller, Ron Marabito, Craig Haney, Michael Gibbons, and numerous others. Plus newer relationships that include Sherry Harbaugh and Holly Jordan who have both advised me and encouraged me as a specifier and CSI member and have become true friends.


What advice would you give to new CSI members just entering this industry, or that you wish a colleague had given you?

I would absolutely encourage involvement! The old saying “you get out of it what you put into it” rings true. There are lots of ways to volunteer. You can be a committee member or serve at one event; you don’t have to step right into a full role unless you want to. You can start small and in the background. Just do it! (oops, is that copyrighted?)


What do you think the most significant changes, or opportunities, will be in the construction industry in the next 5 to 10 years? 

I marvel at all the changes over the past 5 to 10 years. What can we even imagine in the next few years? Instead of changes, let’s look at what remains the same – the human element. Specifiers are knowledge brokers and will always be knowledge brokers whatever the medium might be. The human element – relationships! We may interact differently, but we must always interact to build and maintain relationships.


Any additional thoughts on how being a member of the CSI Community has helped weather the current pandemic and how you and your colleagues continue to support each other? 

It was amazing how the individual chapters quickly transitioned to online meetings. These online meetings not only kept local chapter members connected but allowed others across the country a connection point for great programs. It was thrilling to get back together for our first in-person Dallas Chapter meeting in June. So wonderful to see everyone in person again, and because we had been in online meetings, it was a feeling of having stayed in touch.


Learn more about The Class of Fellows, previous inductees, and how you can volunteer to help nominate a CSI Member who has notably contributed to the advancement of construction technology, the improvement of construction specifications or education, or by service to the Institute, for this prestigious honor.