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Robert Stokes

Robert Stokes

Wyandotte JHS and Wyandotte HS, Wyandotte, OK
B.S. mathematics, Missouri Southern State University
M.S. mathematics, University of Utah M.S. in Mathematics
Owner and President, Stokes Educational Services

What did you gain in TSA that helped you in your career? 

TSA was undoubtedly the most important educational experience of my life. I learned to deal with successes and failures in competitive events, and how to run for state and national office. As a local, state, and national officer, I learned to plan, produce and deliver large projects and events to a level and quality now expected by customers of my company. Serving on the TSA, Inc. Board of Directors as a 17-year-old taught me how to build consensus, present ideas, and persuade people with far more knowledge and experience than I had. Finally, TSA taught me the importance of building relationships with colleagues who I see once or a few times a year. In the professional world, success is often as much about your ability to build and maintain healthy relationships as it is about your knowledge and technical sills. TSA provided an avenue through which I could pursue leadership—in my case, in local, state, and national offices. However, leadership is often (and some would argue, typically) not about simply trailblazing your own path and breathing your own vision to life; rather, about working within constraints. Whether the differing opinions of your colleagues or the stances taken by other stakeholders in your organization, you will find yourself surrounded by people who will tell you “No” when trying to enact change in your organization. This lesson has been paramount as I've moved through my career, and TSA offered me leadership opportunities through which this insight has been ingrained.

What advice do you have for current TSA members?

TSA provides members opportunities to move beyond competing in events to network with other like-minded members across the country, and gain a more holistic view of what technology and engineering mean to different people. My advice for current students is to leverage this diversity in thought and experience, by moving out of respective comfort zones to meet new people and compete in events initially unconsidered. Part of being a fuller human being is having access to a range of experience that allows you to confront your own intellectual and social biases, and TSA can enable you in this regard.