July 2006

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The Importance of Mentorship to ASHRAE  http://www.ashrae.org/ and our Automation Industry

I cannot over express the importance of mentorship. It allows us to grow, evolve, question and simply learn who we are.

  Ken Sinclair, AutomatedBuildings.com

At this yearís ASHRAE CRC in Victoria, BC, I provided a remembrance of Ron Williams.

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Ron Williams was one of the many ASHRAE Life Members that made a difference; Ron at 85 died on November 22, 2005. Ron was an athlete, an RAF test pilot and Flight Engineer on the crew that flew Sir Winton Churchill in WWII.

Ron was my friend and my first industry mentor as well as our Vancouver Island chapter's ultimate ASHRAE resource during the chartering of our chapter and while helping us plan for our first CRC.  It was only fitting that we remember him at our 2nd CRC.

I first met Ron at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology as a student in 1965.  Ron and Stan Hayden were starting an ASHRAE student chapter, a first for NAIT.  Their stories of the industry plus the fact that big book looked pretty impressive encouraged me to join as one of the first ASHRAE student members of the Northern Alberta Chapter.

Our paths crossed many time as I grew up in the industry with all crossings providing added wisdom and industry insight. The man that took that boy under his wing and became his mentor made great changes in my life as well as adding to that great ASHRAE resource that is its people.

Ron was not my only ASHRAE mentor but he was my first. Ron was the charter member of three Canadian ASHRAE chapters; Northern Alberta, Southern Alberta and Vancouver Island.

When I started and trained with Johnson Control, my new mentor Cliff Badger, Chief Engineer, had the greatest respect for our favourite tin basher Ron Williams and the relationships went on. My takeaways from Cliff were many.

It was Ron who introduced me to most of the ASHRAE community including a guy called Don Holte. Ron and Don were great friends in fact I think Ron may have been Donís mentor as well.

Don Holte of Nova Engineering taught me that the scope and approach to environmental control engineering was unlimited.  This was while working with him on a computer simulation for a 60-acre solar heated bubble that was to bring a mild environment to a northern Alberta town for both the construction and finished town-site. Don went on to be the International President of ASHRAE.

Donís mentorship was very important to me in my total understanding of the industry. It was Don and Ron that introduced me to my next mentor Ron Burns who at that time was the Director of Energy Management for the University of Alberta. Ron Burns encouraged me to take up the Energy Management Chair for the local ASHRAE chapter while becoming involved in my first CRC. In our spare time we worked assembling the first major DDC system in 1975; back when pneumatics were still king. The computers were as big as refrigerators, and we had a system analyst and a team of code monkeys, plus we had to create and build most of our own software and sensors as most had not been invented yet or were too costly. Being part of the team that created these extremely interesting leading edge systems spawned many life mentors for me. I was amazed at the quantity and variety of people required to build what had not been built before. 

[an error occurred while processing this directive] As this project evolved the lead engineer Jack Meredith got involved with the next province to the west with a newly formed crown corporation as their energy manger. Ron Burns had been both our mentors so we shared common values and understanding. I slowly started to do work on the west coast and eventually moved to Vancouver Island where Jack and I discovered that there were no ASHRAE meetings or community. With the help of my now retired mentor Ron Williams and the local industry we chartered the Vancouver Island Chapter. Jack was the first president and I followed a few years later.

My list of ASHRAE mentors and friends kept growing with the likes of Tom Hartman, Michael Newman, Jim Lee, Paul Ehrlich, and many more.

So why am I telling you all this? I cannot over express the importance of mentorship. It allows us to grow, evolve, question and simply learn who we are. I have not been a great mentor, educator, teacher, but I have tried to do my best and have my own successes.

I feel that in this time of instant Internet information and Googled wisdom that mentors are more important that ever. When I review the lessons learned from all my powerful technology mentors the lessons were not about technology they were about its successful application and the people that could make that happen.

So what can I do about mentorship?   Reach outÖ..look for the mentorship of someone you respect or become that mentor that is respected; both are possible. Look both at those leaders in your future and those followers in your past; it will be a full filling experience and will grow your character and our industry.    

Mentorship is the core of the human resource that is ASHRAE


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