Let’s reflect. Think back to when you first started working in the energy industry. Why did you decide to enter this field? How was it like stepping into a new phase of your career? What did that time in your life feel like? Maybe this is what you’ve always wanted ever since you were a child. Perhaps you were an intern, still struggling to tie a tie. Maybe you wanted a change of pace midway through your career.
Whatever your situation was, there was a time when you were new. Your wide-eyed enthusiasm barely outweighed the hand-trembling nervousness of walking into the office. Judging by those of you I had the privilege to meet at AESP’s Annual Conference, it is clear that enthusiasm persists. Though, unlike me, the nervousness might have dissipated years ago.
Last winter, I had the opportunity to apply for the Emerging Professionals Scholarship. Having just graduated amidst a global pandemic, still in my first job out of college, and halfway through my second year in the industry, I thought, “what do I have to lose?” To my surprise, I was chosen as one of four scholarship recipients. This scholarship allowed me to attend AESP’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. As an engineer, my comfort zone consists of a hot cup of tea, a calculator, and some spreadsheets open in front of me. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation with an open mind, ready to learn as much as possible and excited to meet new people.
This experience was my first ever conference. I did not know what to expect. But my goal for the upcoming week was to connect with at least twenty new people. And not just in a “hi, here’s my business card, bye” exchange. I was after meaningful interactions and engaging conversations – the type where I can walk away knowing I will not forget the other person’s name 30 seconds later.
Truthfully, it was an overwhelming four days. I could not tell if it was the countless handshakes and introductions or the number of times I said, “what company do you work for?” and “what do you do?” In the end, though, the Annual Conference was a fulfilling experience. I felt welcomed into the AESP community. Yes, I had a ribbon that said “SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT” in bright gold letters. And people did take the time to congratulate me if they recognized me at lunch, in the elevator, and even out on the street in front of the hotel. However, it was not the congratulations or recognition that I was grateful for.
I had conversations with an analyst who gave me insight into how to design equitable pilot programs, with a program manager who answered my questions regarding the engineering setbacks that the industry was facing, with my Conference Ambassador who explained to me how each company we came across fit into the framework of the energy industry, and with industry veterans armed with decades of experience who gave me advice on maintaining professional relationships and how to continue developing my career.
I found that people were supportive of my journey, open to sharing their experiences, and ready to offer guidance and advice. I had conversations with an analyst who gave me insight into how to design equitable pilot programs, with a program manager who answered my questions regarding the engineering setbacks that the industry was facing, with my Conference Ambassador who explained to me how each company we came across fit into the framework of the energy industry, and with industry veterans armed with decades of experience who gave me advice on maintaining professional relationships and how to continue developing my career. I was grateful to be part of a community ready to embrace someone new into their circle. Because of that, my goal was an easy one to meet.
So was the trip worthwhile? What did I take away? I could talk about everything the industry is doing.
- Innovation in the electrification space.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion in program design.
- Using data in novel ways.
- Methods of achieving market transformation.
- Heat pumps. So many heat pumps.
Here is my big takeaway. People are passionate. Passionate about sustainability, leaving this planet better today than yesterday, the future of energy, meeting our monumental climate objectives, creating long-term, authentic relationships with people in and out of this industry, and innovation and discovering new solutions to our ever-expanding laundry list of climate issues. Although these were things that I was already passionate about, I came away with newfound motivation for my work, knowing that I had a group of like-minded individuals behind me.
They say it is the people that make an organization what it is. If that is really the case, then AESP is an organization that radiates warmth; it is an organization that is innovative, and, most importantly, it is an organization that is passionate. I am honored to have connected with some of you in New Orleans. To you and everyone else within AESP, thank you for making AESP what it is and making AESP’s Annual Conference a genuinely positive experience for an Emerging Professional.
Associate Energy Efficiency Engineer, Michaels Energy
Jerald is an active member of AESP’s emerging professionals community and energy efficiency engineer at Michaels Energy. As part of his work, he conducts evaluations and audits to help Michaels Energy customers spot and leverage decarbonization, solar, efficiency, electrification, and weatherization opportunities – and, of course, save money.
He holds a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and holds certifications in Risk Based Process Safety from AIChE and Infiltration and Duct Leakage from the Building Performance Institute.