The water technology industry is constantly changing. As increasingly complex technologies are integrated into HVAC and plumbing system design, engineers must be well educated on the basics and technological advancements that affect systems and design.
Though many of the fundamentals of system design remain constant, new products and technologies mean new ways of doing things, more accurate specification tools and new opportunities for learning. Young professionals who keep up to date can better serve their customers by making decisions that save energy, reduce maintenance and extend product life.
Designing, installing and servicing complex hydronic heating systems requires a level of knowledge and expertise not commonly found in today’s emerging talent pool. To stay current, young professionals need to make ongoing education a priority, whether it’s through training seminars, professional networking or mentoring.
One of the biggest challenges for young engineers just entering the job force is learning how to stand out. It requires hard work and challenging oneself. Fortunately, today there are many resources available for young professionals.
Continue Your Education
According to a Society of Human Resource Management report on employee job satisfaction and engagement, 50 percent of respondents rated the significance of job-specific training as important, with 36 percent identifying it as very important. Further, some studies have attributed retention increases of as much as 70 percent to employee training.
With the high level of specialization of the hydronic systems field, engineers coming out of school have very little exposure to actual pumping systems, underscoring the need for training. “It’s a complicated business if you don’t have a good foundation,” said Jim Burns, president of Minnesota-based Mulcahy Co., a Bell & Gossett manufacturer’s representative.
With ample continuing education opportunities now available, young professionals can gain practical knowledge and stay current with the latest developments and technologies. Flexible programming is offered in a variety of formats from traditional classroom training to online instruction to accommodate busy work and personal schedules. Xylem’s Bell & Gossett brand offers both in-person and online training through its Little Red Schoolhouse in Morton Grove, Illinois, and its Online Little Red Schoolhouse.
It is important to note that many states and industry organizations require the accumulation of approved Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in order to allow licensure and/or recertification. Xylem’s Bell & Gossett Little Red Schoolhouse and Online Little Red Schoolhouse offer CEUs for completing training seminars.
Join a Professional Organization
Professional groups are another powerful tool to build work relationships, gain industry knowledge and achieve career goals. Whether it’s joining an industry organization or attending a conference, networking offers an abundance of opportunities to engage a mentor or to expand your knowledge within the field.
Making personal connections within the industry is critical to both serving your customer base and advancing your career. Joining an association provides young professionals access to a community of talented professionals with whom they can network and seek support and advice as they pursue their professional goals. It’s a tremendous advantage to not only develop lifelong industry friendships, but also create an arsenal of professionals you can turn to for their expertise.
Getting involved in a professional organization also opens up opportunities to work on industry-related projects beyond your normal scope of work. As a member of the Hydraulic Institute, I had the opportunity to work on the Department of Energy initiative for energy efficiency regulations for centrifugal pumps. As a result, I developed valuable working relationships with several associates from other pump manufacturers.
Beyond networking opportunities and professional bonding, industry trade groups and professional organizations frequently offer exclusive member benefits like access to valuable technical resources and other assets to advance your career.
Find a Mentor
Don’t overlook the value of a mentor to broaden your industry knowledge and better understand the different aspects of the hydronics field. Mentors are important resources who can offer advice and share on-the-job experiences they obtained throughout their careers.
When seeking a mentor, it’s important to find someone whose knowledge and accomplishments align with your career goals. While a good mentor can help facilitate career advancement, if you don’t have clearly defined goals, it will be difficult to connect with the right individual who can share specific advice.
Many companies have formal mentoring programs that match new employees with experienced team members. If that’s not the case at your organization, you can seek mentors by asking your supervisor or colleagues for recommendations. Local professional societies and associations may also offer mentoring programs designed to pair you with an established professional in your field. Social platforms like LinkedIn are another resource to identify potential mentor relationships.
Although mentor relationships don’t have to be formal or time-consuming, it is important to meet with your mentor regularly and take consistent action based on their advice and recommendations, otherwise you’re unlikely to make the professional progress you need to excel and differentiate yourself.
Enrolling in continuing education seminars and courses, networking and working with a mentor to achieve your professional goals are keys to enhancing your industry expertise, and as a result, becoming an asset to your organization and the industry as a whole.