From the 2013 Young Professionals Congress – On Reluctant Leadership

Young Member Group 200x52The following remarks were presented at the 2013 Young Professionals Congress, held in conjunction with the ANS Annual Winter Meeting on November 9. Participants recommended the text be made more widely available.

By Gale Hauck

“Welcome to the 2013 Young Professionals Congress – Engaging Our History and Creating Our Future – Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Fission. I’m really excited to see so much potential in this room! My name is Gale Hauck, and I am the General Chair for this year’s Young Professionals Congress [YPC]. I really think you will benefit from the great program we have lined up for you today. We will talk a bit more about that later, but for now I want to give you a little perspective about YPC and why it is so important to you. I can sum it all up in one word: Leadership.

Let me ask you a question: How many of you consider yourselves born leaders? How about just a regular ol’ leader? How many of you have found yourself in a leadership position because everyone else took a step backward, leaving you standing there alone? (You don’t need to answer that one—I think we’ve probably all experienced that!) In some ways, that is the story of how I came to be the YPC General Chair. I saw a need, something that was important to me—bringing young nuclear professionals together to meet each other, to learn and grow. I stepped up to help out. And, well, you know how it goes—everyone else took a step back.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I think stepping up is really critical right now, as we are looking forward to creating our future. Leadership is a very essential skill for young professionals to have. The industry is going through a lot of challenges. There is a global economic slowdown. There are so many technical challenges still being faced in Japan at Fukushima-Daiichi and elsewhere. Our experienced technical and professional industry leaders are retiring before we can even scratch the surface of their treasure trove of information. So it’s more important than ever for young professionals to step up and fill in the gaps, if we want our industry to remain vibrant. And I really believe that the continued success of the nuclear industry is essential.

Not everyone is born a leader. For those who are, our industry desperately needs you, and I thank you for stepping up whenever you have an opportunity. But for those of us—like me—who are not born leaders, we must learn to challenge ourselves and grow into those opportunities when everyone else steps back. It may surprise you to know that in high school I was voted quietest in my class. It’s true! Perhaps some of you were as well. You may also find it hard to believe that less than three years ago, someone counted 112 ‘ums’ in a short speech that I gave. (We’re actually good friends now.) I tell you this because I want you to know that we are not all born leaders! But it is essential to become a leader, for both our personal successes and the success of our industry.

People who reluctantly step up when everyone else steps back can actually make really great leaders. When I became General Chair of the YPC, I certainly didn’t want to do it all myself! I don’t need to say “Yes, that was all me, and isn’t it awesome?” I did what any reluctant leader would do—I found an awesome team, and I delegated.

Peter Shaw was the guy who stepped up and wanted to do EVERYTHING. He became my go-to guy for pretty much anything, and eventually stepped up to fill the role of Program Chair. I’m not sure YPC would have happened without him; it certainly wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome. Felix Meissner, our Finance Chair, was really so much more than that. He was a problem solver, an issue-fixer, and a getter-done-er. So many amazing people made today happen—Allison Miller keeping me sane and always keeping things moving in the background. Kati Austgen dealing with so many changes and always cheerfully finding a solution. Liz McAndrew-Benavides, our advisor and thinker of things that would otherwise be unthought, and Shannon Farr, who made sure that you were all able to find out about the meeting. Cory Stansbury, Bristol Hartlage, Ben Holtzman, and Art Wharton, helping bring the great content we have lined up to you today.

You see, leadership isn’t about having all the answers. It’s not about doing everything yourself. All that’s required is that you devote your energy to a cause that’s important to you. Maybe, like me, you’re inspired to bring other nuclear professionals together to learn and grow. Maybe you’re inspired to build the safest nuclear power plant that’s ever been built. Maybe you want to bring safer, more effective nuclear medicine to the world. Maybe your inspiration is to build a nuclear-powered spaceship to bring people to Mars.

That is what the Young Professionals Congress is really about – Engaging Our History and Creating Our Future. You’re here—you’ve already stepped up. I want you to take that knowledge back to your plant, your lab, your office. So when you see an opportunity to step up, take it. Don’t worry if everyone else steps back. All you need is a little inspiration—you’ll find a team. Others will be there to support you, perhaps some of the people who you meet today. Together, you’ll have a chance to create something new that wouldn’t have existed without you. You’ll have a chance to change the world.”

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hauck 120x120Gale Hauck is a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company, former Chair of the ANS Young Members Group and former Chair of the ANS Pittsburgh Local Section; she has been an ANS Member since 2004.