By Trestles Construction Solutions, LLC on Mar 22, 2018 3:55:01 PM
Dr. Ted Blackmon, Founder & CEO of Construct-X, and Co-Founder of O3 Solution, recently became a member of the Trestles Construction Solutions Advisory Board. He has had a long and interesting career as, among other things, an entrepreneur, a construction technology innovator, and member of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission. We sat down with him to talk about his early career goals, changes along his path, and, of course, what it was like to work for NASA!
1. Oftentimes, as we’re starting out in college, we have a specific career path in mind. Sometimes we know exactly what we want to do, but sometimes we end up finding our path along the way. When did you know that the career you have now is what you wanted to do with your life?
After my sophomore year at Penn State, I was fortunate to land a fantastic summer internship with General Motors. As a car enthusiast and big fan of the Corvette, Camaro and Chevy Chevelle SS, working with GM at the time was my dream job. However, employment with a large manufacturing organization also made me realize that I was absolutely born to be my own boss. That summer, I decided I would pursue a career leveraging my skills in mechanical engineering to invent new products and start new businesses.
2. On the path that you have taken, do you have anything that you would have changed or done differently?
Yes. I do wish I had dedicated more time to volunteer efforts and educational outreach. Educational outreach events were a big part of my early career at NASA and this continued throughout my start-up years at TEN – The Enterprise Network, a premiere tech start-up incubator in Silicon Valley sponsored by NASA. I was fortunate to be a part of TEN in the early 2000s. However, as pressure to succeed as an entrepreneur increased, the time I could allocate to volunteer activities in educational outreach decreased. I also wish I would have maintained a more balanced focus between the combination of hardware and software inventions. These are areas of improvement I intend to change going forward.
3. As a founder and CEO of various organizations, decision making has to be a big part of your day. Those decisions and plans can likely affect many other moving parts. Do you have any strategies to help you make the right decisions quickly?
I apply a number of key principles in decision making:
1) Stay true to core values.
2) Evaluate the options at hand in terms of alignment with overarching goals and objectives.
3) Gather input and feedback from peers.
4) The simpler solution is often the smarter solution.
5) Don’t delay; make the decision when needed.
In the end, it is not always easy to balance intuition with adequate levels of information and insight.
4. You have been able to adapt to various working environments with a number of companies. Which character traits do you like to see in the people that you work with? Do you have any advice for someone new to the construction industry on how to develop those characteristics?
A number of key traits do come to mind. At the top of the list is positivity. Maintaining a positive mental attitude – particularly in the face of adversity – brings positive results. A second trait is adopting the habit of going above and beyond. Exhibiting enthusiasm for your work efforts and career choice. I commonly recommend reading the “Law of Success”, a classic book written by Napoleon Hill on the topic of essential character traits in leading a successful life. I strongly believe that the "Law of Success" should be a part of everyone new to any industry, including construction.
5. As you look back to what has brought our paths to cross, and you look around today at your accomplishments, what excites you about the future?
I am truly excited to apply the principles of resource efficiency I have come to know so well to helping us empower a circular economy. As we continue to modernize the globe, the role we play in the construction industry has an immense impact on the use of natural resources. The fact is we simply cannot scale the world to the luxury we enjoy here in the US without resetting our approach to the built environment. Yet demand for modernization will not stop. We are at a tipping point in society, where by necessity we will move from smart facilities to smart cities, to ultimately a smart planet. I look forward to helping lead the world in attaining that result.
Tell me a little about your connection with NASA and the MarsMap software program. How did you become involved with the project, and what was your experience like?
After graduating from Penn State with a BS in mechanical engineering, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to enter graduate school at UC Berkeley. I already knew when I was moving to California that I wanted to start my own business, as opposed to becoming a professor. My passion for cars and machines quickly led me to the field of mobile robotics and augmented reality. I pursued an internship at NASA in the area of mobile robotics, hoping to align efforts with my PhD thesis. I was repeatedly turned down for a job, but I never gave up.
My advisor suggested I sign up as a volunteer at NASA. After years of dedication as a volunteer, the quality of the innovations as part of my thesis work in using augmented reality to control mobile robots paid off. The work was recognized as being highly desirable to adopt onto an actual mission. Now that was exciting! Further, the technology was also my own intellectual property. I discovered that NASA was very supportive in technology commercialization efforts. I developed and deployed MarsMap on the Pathfinder Mission, with full support of NASA to launch a start-up company after the technology was utilized on a space mission. This truly became a dream job. The advice is clear: pursue your passion and never give up.
Thank you so much for your insights Ted!
Dr. Ted Blackmon joins the Trestles Construction Solutions Advisory Board and brings his expertise to our mission of enabling the improvement of construction crew safety, quality, productivity and schedule reliability performance.