The need to provide touchless, autonomous interfaces in greatly repurposed buildings have shifted the focus from “boring buildings” to an exciting mash-up of how the future of work will be “Building Automation Together Apart.”
Our amazing Building Automation Industry has always provided a very interesting fun (and financially stable) vocation for the few of us that chose to embrace its complexities. The purpose as well as the importance of our industry has been accelerated, COVID-ized!
I have been part of building the Building Automation industry for 50 years. It has provided constant income and amazing diversity, allowing me constant job crafting through the best and worst of economic times.
If the virus has affected your career, now is the time to explore Your New Vocation. A vocation is an occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are especially suited, trained, or qualified.
Here’s a question for all my readers: how did you get so smart? Please share a comment about how you made a career in our exciting industry?
This great response from my contributing editor Scott Cochrane who is a passionate guy in our industry:
It’s because of my passion to never stop looking for better solutions. Every day in the BAS industry I push and with that, I learn something new.”
Great wisdom Scott. My dad told me to make your work something you like doing—your passion—and you never work another day in your life. So very true.
My father was a fiddler forced to work the farm during the depression to feed the family, so his message was very clear. But who knew growing up as a kid on a pig farm, Automated Buildings would be my passion?
How do we find our passion? That strong and barely controllable emotion. What is the secret to finding your vocation? How do we lead discovery and instill passion in our people? How do guys like Scott and Ken teach our followers to find their passion?
One answer is to build on their desire to know, their curiosity. Yes, I think that is the start.
Here is some advice from Samantha Vincenty, Senior Staff Writer at OprahMag.com:
Consider the C.L.E.A.R. Path to passion.
According to Putz, there are five stages of passion—recognizing the early stages can shape the trajectory of how you develop it further.
Putz calls these stages the “C.L.E.A.R. Path”:
Curiosity “This is where passion first appears. It begins as something that captures your attention.”
Learning. “When you are intrigued by something, you begin to learn more about it. You put time into understanding at a deeper level.”
Enthusiasm “You become excited and enthused. You want to experience more, know more, and learn even more.”
Awareness. “When passion reaches this level, commitment is required. This is the ‘willingness to suffer’ level. You will go above and beyond to keep it flowing.”
Recognition “People identify or associate you with a certain path or experience. Your passion stands out.”
Very pleased that I’m speaking at Controls-Con, a Smart Building Controls Conference. I hope I’m able to help Scott Cochrane with his “Hybrid Virtual Vocation Vacation,” designed to Create; Curiosity, Passion, Innovation, Motivation, from any Location, with Edge-You-Cation. From the registration page:
WHO SHOULD ATTEND CONTROLS-CON? Systems Integrators, Programmers, Engineers, IT Professionals, Estimators, Project Managers, Service Technicians, Contractors, Sales Professionals, Building Managers, Facility Managers, Executives, …. Please join us a good way to get a big picture overview of our industry lead by industry professionals
I am also pleased to be a mentor/influencer at the Monday Live! Mentorship initiative. The tagline is, Future Workforce for Smart Building – Let us know how we can help! (Some of my comments from the latest Monday Live Zoom can be found by following the link.)
We should take a look at what the Europeans are doing. I think they’re a bit ahead of us in recognizing what we need to do to bring new people into the industry. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out some of these apprentice reviews from TheJobCrowd.com site:
The following is an Apprentice Review for Schneider Electric.
Schneider Electric scores 4.1/5 based on 51 reviews. All reviews are based exclusively on results of feedback from employees from Schneider Electric. Employees are asked to rate Schneider Electric on a wide range of workplace topics, which is broken down through star ratings on the right-hand side. Look at the rating for Responsibility:, Work Life Balance:, Environmental Awareness:, Benefits…
I’m looking forward to our March issue of AutomatedBuildings.com. We’re going to celebrate the women in our industry, and I’m going to reach out to all of them and have them explain why they are so smart, how they got into the industry, and why young girls today should follow them.
Celebrating our success is a big part of attracting folks to our industry. Another thing that is encouraging is in my LinkedIn group (now over 20,000 members) I’m getting a tremendous amount of these new younger folks joining and following AutomatedBuildings. They see some kind of a connection there, which I think is useful. I am very pleased that so many are young women, who, frankly we’ve always struggled to get into our industry. I hope they will bring a great perspective on how all this stuff makes our all our lives better.
The whole re-purposing aspect is very interesting, too. If you take a look at some of their backgrounds, they are not necessarily electrical or mechanical. They come from almost any discipline; psychology, chemistry… they pretty much all have had an amazing education, but now they need a real paying job. And if somebody will give them a job, instill passion, and bring them on as an apprentice, providing them a certification after a year, well, that’s a powerful program. That’s the sort of thing that can have a huge positive impact on a person’s life.
Looking at the young folks that took over my old energy automation consulting company (SES Consulting), the diversity of their background totally amazes me. Most have an engineering background, but some of them are data scientists, some of them have come from completely different environments. That diversity has really changed the direction of the company and has also created a few spin-offs, new startups, folks wanting to create data scientist-type approaches, and basically to start spinning off the energy auditing as a service. There have been some interesting crossovers, such as Audette.
In the past, the big decision was to hire either a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer. I think the answer is probably neither one of them. Probably the data scientist or one of the IoT folks is your better bet as the data becomes the way we learn about the systems. We all have been involved in the working end of it; we really need to move some of our thought into the thinking end of our industry. The problem is I don’t think we well understand all the jobs that are on the table now.
Way back in the early days of Direct Digital Control, one of the things we obviously needed to talk to the DDC system was a personal computer (PC). In a lot of projects, we were the first one that got a computer into the mechanical offices, because they needed it to talk to their DDC system. When the gamers whose day jobs were as building operators came and started looking at our DDC interface to the PCs they asked a lot of great questions. Like, why do you not use HTML instead of vendor clunky software as your operator interface? I remember working on one project, and we built some of the first HTML interfaces even before PDF was almost open and useful. This demo discussion from back in 1999 shows the thinking.
The gamers of the day saw clearly the connection between all of this stuff. I think we’re in exactly the same situation today. We have whole groups of folks that have these microcomputers—Raspberry Pi’s and Beagle boards—in their hand, and they know how to experiment with them. They will learn our industry through them. This is the true value of their new perspective. IoT is a gateway to our industry. We just have to get those folks to take a look at what we’re doing.
I think the home market is pretty interesting. I find a lot of the new smart devices amazing, the fact that they can set themselves up. For example, we just got a new TV. I basically signed on with my phone and all of the apps account setups, passwords, and stuff that were on my phone uploaded to my TV. In less than a minute, I had everything I had on my phone on new my TV. I hadn’t thought of the concept of devices setting devices up. But in today’s minds, how else would you do it? This whole leading edge of what’s happening in IoT keeps falling on us and we’re always chasing it. I think we just need to create an interest for our new vocation so folks can come and try to apply their knowledge directly to our industry.
We’ve all been pushing around the concept of the autonomous building, which will follow the growth of the autonomous car. If anybody just bought a car in the last few years, just the amount of sensors, radar, cameras and other stuff is amazing—and it’s all integrated. Not just integrated, but most are wirelessly integrated. All this stuff is obviously cost-effective. So we need to see these new kinds of sensors coming into our buildings. Our industry never had the scale to make sensors inexpensive, but the new approach and the volume of the electric and autonomous car industry is rapidly changing the landscape.
In our old day’s networks were very problematic, and they had to be closely controlled or they just turned into a disaster. But these new wireless networks somehow seem to be able to crash themselves, rebuild themselves, and be back up very quickly doing something they never did before.
How does your building interact when I walk into it? How is the building autonomous to my action? Because that’s what the car does. You get into the car, and the car does all of these things because you are in the car. It senses and connects your phone, adjusts your seat, controls your climate, turns on lights, wipers, etc., autonomously because you are there.
One of the new terms folks like now is “job crafting.” I’ve done some writing on that. It’s an interesting concept. Basically you chat with potential employees about the best you can be together (and maybe better yet apart?). About what skills they have and how best those skills can be used. They obviously need a passion for our industry with the ability to think like a data scientist. But if, in fact, their hobby is producing YouTube videos, then they have even extra appeal. And all of a sudden, they create a part of the job that we hadn’t even envisioned, in addition to doing our traditional industry stuff. Asking them to do what we are doing now is limiting, and maybe dangerous. I think we need to better define how they could job craft themselves into our industry.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! Next, Monday Live! will be talking about the types of jobs our members are trying to fill right now and in the near future. Join us Monday at 3 pm ET if you or someone you know is looking for a career move. Register at https://mondaylive.org
How can I find out if Building Automation is the industry for me in a few minutes?
Scan quickly these online overviews of our industry for an amazing amount of information in less than a minute (click on 3D for a fly ove)r:
Timeline SMART BUILDING AUTOMATION EVOLUTION
A blur of our past 22 years From Y2K to 2021
Evolving online with Connected Contractor, The Building Book of Digital Transformation.
To explore and understand automation hardware, get your hands on a low cost microcomputer edge controller and play with it. You will learn a lot very quickly.
Follow online blogs like this one, cccontrols.com/blog. The writer, Zach Netsov, is one of our contributing editors and discusses using new, open, low-cost hardware. This linkedIn post might help as well.
Read about new approaches to our industry in this interview with David Antar, President, IPVideo Corporation, in our February issue. Here’s a sample:
In Building Automation Systems (BAS), we are used to a few main data types to drive control in buildings. This includes things like motion, temperature, humidity, and pressure with our goal to provide a safe, comfortable, secure environment. However, with major changes going on in and around our buildings, we need to work with NEW DATA in NEW WAYS to bring the NEW REALITY people are looking for to life.
Welcome IoT! With new tech, we can bring a new picture to building owners of an asset that is in great need of some focus right now. For us in BAS, that means a departure from traditional thinking and a new era of multi-use, multi-purpose IP network-enabled devices that re-landscape the data that drives the buildings. Introducing a new way of thinking of building control—utilizing microphones, air particle scanners, speakers, accelerometers, vape, smoke and gas detection to help building owners accomplish a modern, secure, safe and comfortable environment in TODAY’S CRAZY NEW ERA. What if there was a SMART sensor that could do all of that and more?
Platform wars are well underway and will create opportunities to understand and move our complex industry. Here’s an example from iotbusinessnews.com:
Microsoft Azure provides AI and IoT technologies that drive the digital transformation of customers, and it continues to grow as a global platform. Hitachi is actively developing smart building solutions for the new normal. We have high expectations that this platform will accelerate digital transformation in the building facility maintenance field. We for our part will also conduct sales promotion support activities for this solution on Microsoft AppSource. Moving forward, we will continue to grow our partnership with Hitachi, including expanding collaboration for overseas markets, and to work closely with our customers and drive digital transformation that leads to positive social change.
Here’s an article from Memoori.com on the Google Digital Buildings Project: Putting the Internet into the Building Internet of Things. Key passage:
“How do we achieve a digital world, digital city or even a digital building with little agreement on what ‘smart,’ ‘intelligent’ or ‘digital’ is? How do we compare digital buildings within a city without any criteria or common ground?” says Kathy Farrington, Technical Program Manager at Google. “One approach is to focus on creating the infrastructure to allow for any device to work with any application. This builds towards a world much more in line with the explosive potential of the Internet, rather than bespoke environments we see in buildings today that are limited in their utility.”
So as you can see the scope of Your New Vocation, Building Automation, is unlimited. You will learn skills you can use in any industry, but you will never want to leave our industry once you start… trust me on that.