BSD SpecLink is not only a leading specification software tool, it also is a team of skilled specification writers who work behind the scenes to make sure standards, building codes, and design guides are kept up to date. In accordance with national construction specifications, safety regulations, and LEED specifications; SpecLink helps specifiers improve and optimize the specification writing process.
Our people are a lot like you. We are experienced architects, engineers, and specification writers. But how does one become an expert spec writer? Below is an interview of one of Building System Design’s Specification Writers, Tony Horton.
Whether you are a new student in the construction industry or a Senior Specification Writer, Tony provides some tips on how to become an expert in construction specifications below.
Construction Industry Career Interview: Becoming a Spec Writer
Bio: Tony Horton – Mechanical Specification Writer
Tony has been reviewing and writing specifications for 12+ years and is responsible for the content of Divisions 21 through 25. He is also a certified LEED AP and CSI CDT.
What is your educational background? What did you study and where?
I attended the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (Fort Monmouth, NJ) and the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) as an Army Invitational Reservist from 1995 to 1999. Go Army! Beat Navy! I completed my degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) in 2001. I like to say, “I have been both the Knight and the Dragon.“
Based on your experience, what advice do you have for students studying in architecture, construction, or engineering?
I would highly recommend that a student participate in an internship program while attending school. The experience and contacts that one can cultivate will give them a head start when it is time to join the world of work.
What steps do you recommend for someone who wants to have a career in spec writing?
I would shadow or intern with a specification writer, architect, or an engineering project manager. Take the CDT – Construction Documents Technology certification. I would study the principles and applications covered in the Construction Specifiers Institute Project Delivery Practice Guide before you learn bad habits.
What tools to you recommend for professional spec writers?
If I could go back in time 14 years, I would introduce my engineering consultant firm to SpecLink. SpecLink would have increased our productivity. SpecLink’s features would have reduced my product research and content verification time. The transparency of the SpecLink specifications sections would have allowed the addition of “lessons learned” with notes and in-line notes to the next user. Thus, the company’s office master guide specification could have become a repository to preserve corporate knowledge and intellectual property.
When using SpecLink, what is your favorite feature of the software?
SpecLink allows you to “edit by selection” rather than edit by deletion. SpecLink allows the user to see all the choices and requirement-related paragraphs that are often lost from project to project. The “edit by selection” feature allows the user to see the original text as well as any user added paragraphs. Ask yourself, “how many times have you been told a project was just like…” In my experience, there was rarely a project that was in the same state or under the same municipal codes.
What is your current role? What is the best part about it?
I am currently responsible for the curation and creation of content in Divisions 21, 22, 23 and 25. I really enjoy helping the BSD AECO and BPM sales teams introduce potential clients to the power of SpecLink and helping those clients reach the “ah ha” moment.
How have you transitioned to working from home during the current Covid-19 situation? Any tips?
I like working from home. The commute from upstairs to downstairs is so nice. I have added at least 10 hours of productivity to my work week.
Work from Home Tips from a Spec Writing Expert:
- Select a functional work from home space. I know we are tempted to work from the comfort of your bed or master suite. Resist the temptation. Pick a spare bedroom or a private space away from the main living area to avoid distraction and unexpected disruptions.
- Set up your laptop and/or external keyboard to promote good posture and ergonomics. Just because we can now wear our lounge gear throughout the workday does not mean we can slouch on the job. Good posture and proper wrist placement prevent carpel tunnel, tennis elbow, and back pain.
- Do not forget to take a break. Now that our morning walk to our work from home space as given us hours of our lives back. Let’s not waste the opportunity to get your steps in during the workday. Make yourself a schedule to include individual focus time, team collaboration time, and general wellness time during your day.
- Test and optimize your video conference set up prior to taking the call. Most of us have laptops these days, however, the sound quality and location of the integral webcam may need to be tweaked. You can use books to raise your device’s webcam to eye level. I personally use a laptop stand to improve my position in the video viewing window of whatever conferencing application you or your company has chosen. Conduct a test call. Make sure you are framed well with the video activated and that you can hear and be heard. I personally use a Bluetooth stereo headset with integral microphone. Many laptops and desktops have a port for a wired headset.
- Feel free to improvise and be creative. The goal is to improve your work from home experience for you, your coworkers, and clients. Share your innovations in a company blog or share ideas via a virtual happy hour. We can use this “work from home” opportunity to improve our communication skills in the written and visual form.
Article by Tony Horton, BSD Mechanical Specification Writer & Carolyn Chinchilla, BSD Digital Marketing Manager