In 1985, not long after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder, Chris Sherry was scanning the classified ads and found a structural engineering job that sounded right up his alley.
He never expected to stay at Merrick & Company for decades. He definitely never expected to become its president, chairman of the board and fifth-ever CEO, either.
“I knew I had a voice in this company, even all the way back in ‘85, when I first started,” Sherry said. “That’s why I’ve been with Merrick for so long. I knew I could chart a course for my career here and, with a little bit of luck, chart a course for the company.”
Sherry’s dedication to hard work, ethical business practices and leadership were just a few of the reasons the student leadership in the College of Engineering and Applied Science invited him back to campus to act as the keynote speaker at the first-ever Student Leadership Summit this weekend.
Besides Sherry’s keynote speech, the summit will feature three hourlong workshops on topics like imposter syndrome, authentic adaption and creating a better future driven by better leaders.
Sherry was blown away and honored when he was asked to be the keynote speaker at the summit.
“I want the students to walk away with the knowledge that there is a place in the world for them, as engineers and leaders. The world needs them as leaders. If we had more engineers leading the country today, we’d be in a hell of a lot better place,” Sherry said.
In his keynote speech, he will touch on ethics and sustainability, both of which are important for any engineer entering the workforce.
As someone who creates for a living, Sherry knows how important sustainability is.
“Every natural resource we consume is limited. I don’t care whether it’s water, clean air or the ground we build buildings on,” he said. “You’ve got to look through that lens with everything you do. Whether we’re building a new office building or research laboratory, we always consider the finite natural resources that that facility is going to consume.”
Structural engineers — Sherry included — need to find ways to minimize the use of raw materials when creating, whether it’s through reducing, reusing or recycling.
The Merrick CEO credits his time in the engineering department at CU Boulder for setting him up for success once he graduated and entered the “real world.”
“I always got the impression that there was never a limit placed on what I could do when I was a student there,” he said. “My instructors never told me that I was going to be a structural engineer my whole life, so I better be happy working with a No. 2 pencil and a calculator, doing design. They always encouraged me that I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I had a solid engineering degree that was rooted in the fundamentals.”
Being a leader is an important topic he wants to drive home to the students in attendance at the summit.
Sherry knows better than most that while engineers are talented, intelligent and driven, they are not always the best at talking to others.
“Leadership is about influencing others, whether it’s an individual, a group or an entire organization,” he said. “It’s fundamental to influence others to achieve a goal, that’s what leadership is all about.”