High School Geometry Proves Team Qualifications

Posted on August 20, 2013


In tenth grade, I was subjected to the torture of geometry, and more specifically proofs, which were unlike any math I had ever encountered. As was the case for me with higher level math, it took time for the material to make sense—long after my lesson and class year had finished. For half of the year, geometric proofs—and the passel of corollaries, laws, and properties needed for argument—were the bane of my high school existence.  Geometry was my first and only C grade in school (until the final quarter of my senior year when I was already accepted to college).

Sometimes the hardest lessons are the ones that stick with you.  And much like calculus and trigonometry, geometry has come in handy later in life.  Today, the proof problems may be moot, but the theorems have stuck with me—so much so that when I was meeting two weeks ago with a Director of Planning, Design and Construction of a small healthcare system, I had a flashback.

We were discussing how healthcare projects were evolving from large new construction to small retrofit construction.  The Director hinted he would not have many luxurious new towers in the future.

I knew this, but was puzzled as he gingerly tap danced around the subject of renovations.  After some time, I finally broached the down-and-dirty lingo of working in occupied facilities  and infection control.  He seemed relieved.  Later, he asked why I did not have any of that smaller work in my portfolio.

For me, the answer was:  geometry.  The Transitive Property.  If A = B and B = C; then, A = C.  In my eyes, if my team (A) can deliver a 190,000 square foot, state-health-agency-reviewed, multi-level, acute care tower (B), and that project (B) is a more than adequate comparable to a 12,000 square foot, single-story, non-reviewed, non-acute care, urgent care facility (C); then my company (A) is qualified for the challenge of the clinic fit-out (C).

I never said a smaller project is automatically easy, inexpensive, or a slam-dunk—only that a more difficult accomplishment should qualify a team to compete for a less complex opportunity.

However, this still took some convincing.  I had to explain, rather awkwardly, that most company portfolios show off their most technically complex and aesthetically pleasing projects.  Portfolios are, like any job interview, aspirational:  you dress up and shoot for what  you ideally hope to be doing and hope to be getting paid—and negotiate down from there.

I learned two lessons that day.  One, have examples of even the most mundane,  least aesthetically driven projects available because you never know where the discussion will lead.  And lesson two, not everyone remembers high school geometry.