What does Gracious Professionalism Mean to You?

Words and phrases mean different things to different people. In my English class, we are exploring these various definitions to words and phrases like love, success, leadership, respect, and so on. I decided to pick a phrase very close to myself and write about that. Gracious professionalism resembles respect and care for all, no matter the circumstances. I believe that this phrase is a part of humanity as a whole and if we all live up to it, the world is a better place. I would like to extend an invitation to the Chief Delphi community to voice their opinions on this phrase, and what exactly it means to them. Thank you.

Here are some thoughts - some of my own, some from other people in FIRST, some from my college classes on engineering professionalism.

Gracious Professionalism:

To be a professional is to have sufficient skill, knowledge, and experience in an area to get paid to do it.

Additionally, as I will define it, professionals will have knowledge and skills that their clients do not possess, so they must act in a way which looks out for those “more vulnerable” than them. For example, a civil engineer will design a bridge for a community. The members of the community put their trust in the engineer to deliver a safe design. They do not possess the skills to evaluate the safety of the design for themselves. Instead, they must rely on the engineer to ensure the safety. This puts the professional in a unique position compared to some other job roles.

Professionalism is the outward expression of how those in such a position will act.

To me, this implies certain qualities:

  • Generally looking out for the good of others, even if it means more work for the professional. Don’t just do what is asked, do what is best.
  • Being truthful in all affairs. This means not just saying things that are literally true, but carefully crafting words to ensure others fully understand all that is said.
  • Having the ability to learn and expand knowledge when required, or at least admit to not knowing an answer. Decisions cannot be made out of pride.

To have Gracious Professionalism means that you do what you do not solely for yourself, but to practice your craft publicly, with elegance and clarity, such that others may learn from you. To me, this means:

  • Maintaining an outwardly positive attitude, even in the face of adversity
  • Having a complex definition of “fairness”. Seek to uplift the other, not dole out algorithmic justice.
  • Honestly listening to all ideas, weighing each according to their merit, carefully discerning which ideas are superior in the current situation. Work to refine thought processes so that they best serve the current challenge.
  • Seeking to build great teams, not just great individuals. This often means taking the time to build consensus, and seeking the best way to work with disparate personalities.
  • The first and foremost goal should be to build a better world. Pay and fame should be secondary to this pursuit.

If I could make a future recommendation: take the ethics course in college related to whatever field you study (business, engineering, etc.). Assuming it’s a good one, they’ll have lots of great pearls of wisdom on the “meta-game” of the professional.

This may be bringing out my competitive streak a little but here’s what GP means to me: Beat them at their best.

It means that I want to raise everyone to their highest levels, then rise above.
It means that I help my students to develop their best ideas, while staying a step ahead so I can make sure there aren’t catastrophic pitfalls lying down the road.
It means that if another team needs a resource to be at their best I’ll try to get it to them, and make sure we’ve planned in case something similar happens to us.
It means that I want a race to the top, not a fight to get off the ground.
It means I prefer a close loss over an easy win.

But that’s just me, Gerthworm’s post is 10/10 and a great read.

Good, Better, Best - never rest until your good is better and your better is best. St. Jerome.

I am passionate about FRC and FIRST in general. I always, repeat ALWAYS, tell prospective students/mentors/sponsors that it is so much more than the Robot.

Any team that I touch, I want them to have the opportunity to see an engineering professional that enjoys the whole program - not simply a cool gadget, Chairman’s Award, Safety, etc.

Gracious Professional to me is allowing students to “find out about themselves” as they group together and rally to solve real things - those are the skills that take them to great places. Those are the students I want to see coming back to the FIRST community as professionals to show how gracious they are in paying it back.

Here’s what it means to me:

  1. When you walk by a rookie team’s pit and see kids swarming their robot, find someone and ask what they need without thinking twice. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing at that time.

  2. Welcome anyone and everyone to your pit with a smile and greeting. Make them feel at home. Competitions are stressful for everyone.

  3. When you learn something new and inventive that will give you a competitive edge, don’t keep it to yourself. Raise the floor and take everyone with you, and you’ve done a service to the FRC community.

We actually have this as an award on our team. The bottom line is that you help the competition be the best they can be, right up to the beginning of the match. Even if their next match is against you. And even if they beat you, you help them get ready for the next match.

To me it’s about being a good sport in all circumstances, and treating everyone else equally and respectfully.

It’s a competition. Unless your team is named after an orange crunchy snack, there will be teams that are performing better than you. And there will be teams that are performing more poorly - sometimes much more poorly. Being GP means we treat all those teams with equal respect.

To the teams that we’re beating - we don’t look down on them. We don’t laugh at them. We don’t get angry at them for pulling our alliance down, for costing us matches. In fact, we try not to use that kind of charged language at all. We don’t say things like “they’re trash”. We don’t gloat when we beat them. We don’t push them around, force our strategy on them, ignore what they want to do because we can do it better. Instead, we remember what it was like to work with less resources and less knowledge than we currently have. We ask what they would like to try, we try to give them opportunities, we offer help, advice, and constructive criticism. We try to pull them up to our level, wherever that level happens to be.

To the teams that are performing better than us - we look up to them in awe, but not in anger, envy, or jealousy. We want what they have - and we’ll work hard to get there. But we won’t wish bad luck upon them, we won’t play dirty, we won’t gloat when they make mistakes or get damaged. We know what it feels like to be bullied by “better” teams, but we don’t believe that behaving that way is a prerequisite to getting up there. We’re not afraid to ask for help, and we appreciate whatever we can learn from them. We accept that our own teammates, our own drive team, are doing their best, and we don’t try to unfairly compare. We see our mistakes, things that we need to improve, and we learn from them constructively rather than blaming each other for holding the team back.

We behave like professionals even though some of us are just children and teenagers. We’re polite, friendly, and helpful. We clean up our messes and treat our surroundings with respect. We look out for each other, not just our own selves. We make friends, support other teams, cheer for other teams, because we know that when they win, we all do.

Here is a video made by a former member of 2052 about what Gracious Professionalism means: