"Gracious Professionalism"

When I think about what it means to be gracious, the following quote comes to mind, along with some of my own musings from 2010.

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."
[RIGHT]Translated from the Latin Book Metalogicon, written in 1159 AD by John of Salisbury[/RIGHT]

When we find ourselves honored above our peers we have two obligations to that lofty position. The first is to acknowledge the unseen giants that have aided our ascent. The second is to join those giants in lifting up others to even greater heights.[RIGHT]Aaron Bailey, 2010[/RIGHT]

Some other thoughts I’ve had on what it means to be Professional.

• Professionals take responsibility for solving the problem, not punching the clock.
• Professionals know their limitations and don’t promise more than they can deliver. They do however deliver more than they promised. They also know when to ask for help.
• Professionals are constantly improving their skill-set by staying current with developments in their field, and by observing or working with their skilled colleagues.
• Professionals know how to collaborate. They use language that encourages a flow of ideas between colleagues. This includes giving credit to others and avoiding offensive comments that would diminish the contribution of others.
• Professionals pay attention to the details. They know the cost of sloppy work, and the beauty of good design.

For me I use the grandma is watching analogy. However, I modify it be saying that you have to act as if “my grandmother is watching you.” My grandmother was 98 1/2 when she died. Nena was an Italian grandmother with a seventh grade education in a pre-arranged marriage that lasted 66 years until my grandfather’s death. Her idea of good behavior was pretty well defined. You are either good or not. You are either acting in a way that would make her proud or you’re not. There is no in between. If you are not pleasing Nena you are not acting with gracious professionalism.
Thanks, Nena.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

…and kick robotty rear-end."

To me GP stands for accomplishing a common goal in spite of any differences you may have.

The defining aspect of FIRST, for me, and really the essence of gracious professionalism is that as much as FIRST is a fierce competition, it’s also a communal engineering challenge; we may pit our robots against each other, but we’re all in it together. The competition is almost always secondary to that. A good FRC team does not participate for the sake of competition, they participate for the sake of the science, the math, and the engineering - and just as much as they can realize that through the performance of their own robot, it is just as important to help other teams realize it through theirs. We might compete with our robots, but we’re not “opponents” in the usual sense. Not at all. This is why you see teams sharing tips, ideas, and even complete designs on a forum like this - the point is for everyone to build and field the best robot they possibly can. The competition itself is almost incidental.

To illustrate this: In my first year on 449, at the Trenton regional, a robot in autonomous mode rammed into our alliance station wall and knocked our OI clean off the shelf. Both of our joysticks were destroyed, and we had no spares. Immediately afterwards, they came over to our pit and asked us what we needed to become functional again. This would never happen at any other type of competition; the emphasis of FIRST is fundamentally different. For someone who “gets” gracious professionalism, it is vastly more satisfying to help another team field a working robot where they would not have before than to win the competition.

The point of FIRST is, as per the name, inspiration. Your job, as a member of an FRC team, is to inspire interest and passion for science and technology. You cannot do this unless you put the science and technology ahead of the competition in your list of priorities.

It may sound cheesy at first (especially given the speeches during kickoff), but it’s absolutely essential to the functioning of FRC. I’d certainly not have stuck around as long as I have without it.

Woody Flowers talked about Gracious Professionalism during the 2013 kickoff. He referenced team 1108(and today is 11/08!) and how during the Greater Kansas City Regional they had their trailer stolen off an SUV. This trailer was lent to them by someone in the community for competition. This was a huge loss for them as the trailer contained tools, spare parts and I think there was even a few awards in there. The Greater Kansas City Regional banded together and started collecting the $100 MasterCard gift cards we were given to help cover the expenses to replace what was lost.

Another anecdote from the Greater Kansas City Regional: We have had teams show up on Thursday with just the kit of parts and very few tools. They had been registered and wanted to compete but did not have any experience to create a robot. Teams jumped together very quickly to help them build a robot that if I remember correctly was moving before Thursday was over.

Sidenote: It was awesome to hear Woody mention this during kickoff as I had forgotten he was there that year or that he even was aware of what took place as it happened during the final day of competition. It was even better he mentioned it cause I was sitting next to my cousin who is a 1108 alumni who was on the team when this took place.

2013 Kickoff Woody on Gracious Professionalism

To me Gracious Professionalism is comprised of professional courtesy, sportsmanship, teamwork and competition. Although we are all broken into separate teams and alliances we have to work together to make this program work. Without Gracious Professionalism we would be like competing companies (think of P&G and Johnson & Johnson if you need more of a visual) working to get ahead of the other, making sure no trade-secrets get out. Instead we work together and band together to help each other grow and become better teams this in turn helps each team build better robots making for more competitive matches, making for a more fun competition.

To me:
Gracious Professionalism is a celebration. I will celebrate the wins of the teams around me, and the teams against whom I compete. Even those that beat me.
Because I’ve worked with some of these teams, and helped these teams to achieve their success. Or because I know how hard our team works, so if another team beats us, they must have worked harder/smarter/more effectively. Either way, that merits a celebration.

To me GP is like a cross country race. Everyone struggles through it, but everybody encourages each other to finish, and do their best. Of corse you’ll have “winners” and “losers”, but everyones a winner because they already finished the hard task.

Gracious professionalism is:

Working together to come up with solutions to problems; on your own team and especially with other teams

Pointing out that loose wire or bolt on your opponent’s robot while you’re queued for a match

Taking time to think of what other teams may need as you pack for a competition

Realizing that you’ve got more students working in other team’s pits than your own

Taking care and time not to make work or messes that others will need to fix/clean up

Understanding how your actions affect others and keeping this front-of-mind

Gracious professionalism is one of the aspects of FIRST which make the FIRST experience really rewarding and enjoyable. It’s also really good practice for a professional career.

Gracious Professionalism is all of the things stated above and not taking them for granted. If you have more resources (time, money, knowledge, location, expertise, tools, parts, etc.) you should share with those that are less fortunate no matter what the circumstances may be.

Here’s what Gracious Professionalism, and a little Good Sportsmanship is:
Keep a smile on your face (sad/neutral face can sometimes have a negative connotation)
Respect others, even if they don’t respect you

Cheer for everyone, even it they are on the other alliance. I not only do that, but I wish them good luck, and ask them to play hard, especially because a close and well-played match it the best to watch

Offer Help to anyone, even if they aren’t on your team. At a competition, someone was trying to move a robot by himself and nearly dropped. I gladly asked him if I helped. He didn’t say yes, but I at least think he would be have a good connotation for me

Introduce yourself professionally (Mr. Forbes and others at the Tucson Tussle, please tell me if there is anything I can improve)

Listen to others. I they ask you to move out of the way, listen to them. If they ask you for a tool, put your best effort to get it to them.

Know all the subsystems of the robot and those other things, even if they aren’t your field on the team. Even though I am a programmer on the team, and I love playing with sparks and supercapacitors at home :D, I still try to understand mechanical and those other fields though they aren’t my cup of tea on the team. That can be helpful because then you are a resource for your team. You can answer any questions asked, boosting your reputation.

Congratulate others of their victory and inspire the losing teams to do better if you can or just tell them good luck

Shake hands with your opponents after the match and congratulate how they played

Don’t Brag. It looks very awkwards and can be mean. (Mr. Forbes and others at the competitions, please tell me if I can improve in anything!

There are a lot more things to watch out. As a matter of fact, there are so many, you could probably write a 1000 page book and that won’t hold all these thumb-rules.

And again, anyone at these competitions, please give me information about what to improve. No one’s perfect, but there’s always room for improvement

All of the above…

Other examples:

Carry materials to events that you know you won’t need but that other teams commonly ask for. Document, organize, and label these so that they are quickly available. Quickly know when something someone asks for is not available.

Be available during both Qualifications and Eliminations to lend a hand to other teams who are having problems. Have your scouting team send timely word about teams that seem to be having issues, whether mechanical, electrical, or programmatic.

Politely ask teams who are having issues if they would like your assistance. Do not assume that they want your help. If you do help, work with the team, making sure that you are collaborating with them rather than just doing it for them. When you are done, they should clearly understand what was done and should agree that it is working.

Cheer and acknowledge good play.

Treat your own team as well as you treat everybody around you. And vice-versa.

Treat the volunteers, judges, and inspectors well, regardless of what is going on.

Above all, have fun and work to make it possible for everyone else to have fun, too.

Gracious Professionalism means that you help your competitors as much as possible but you still compete to do your best. For Example, When My team when to the WPI Regional, we helped a couple of teams that were having problems, needed to use tools, or need some advice.

Gracious Professionalism is, at its core, the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. Would you like everyone to cheer for you? Then cheer for everyone else. Would you like help from those who are best suited to give it? Then give help to those who want it.

If I could choose one word to sum up Gracious Professionalism, it would be: SERVICE.

Rather than try to define GP, I’m going to give an an example. I’ve been wanting to recognize this team for a while, so now is my chance.

This year at the WPI regional my team’s robot was far from ready to compete. As a result, on Thursday we had about 10 different tasks going on in our pit at any given time in an attempt to reassemble and rebuild parts of our robot (we made sure it didn’t get too unsafe). The team next to us, Smart Robotics (3930), saw our struggles and actually cleared out of their pits, allowing us to expand into them for as long we needed to. I feel like that is something very unique for a team to do, especially a young team like them.

That’s quite clever and nice of the team! Hopefully, they won the gp award! So, did they just use the pits together, or did they donate their pit to 3959?
That’s a good example of GP.

They pushed a lot of stuff off to the other side of the pit, and just didn’t really have any of their own team members in it (they got inspected and set up early, so they didn’t need to do anything in there). It was mainly for Thursday, after that we didn’t need the extra space as much.

That makes sense, but it is still quite nice of them!

There is nothing in the world to make you feel hope for humanity than the company of gracious professionals,

This year, at IRI, when our robot experience catastrophic damage, SO many teams helped us out to get our robot working. I’ll take a quote from the thread we posted post-IRI about the damages from one of our college mentors, Carl. THESE teams exemplify GP.

ALSO- before the competition even started, we were lent(read “given”) a Banebots motor from team 3847.
We offered the the compensation for the money the motor cost- they refused it.

That is quite professional, I think. These motors cost something like, $30. If you have a few lying to spare and another team needs some, they aren’t something unaffordable for most teams, unless the team wanting donations is like us where we blew our BAGs every few matches!