Testing 1-3-1

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During my second-round interview here at CAPS with Mr. Norris, the CEO of the company, he asked if I would like a tour around the campus. I agreed, and after making our way in between the fabrication building and engineering offices, he showed me what appeared to be a giant white tent, but what I would soon learn is the amount of impact this simple tent makes on our products and, in turn, our customers. This white tent, which I later learned is known as the “testing booth,” is not where the magic is designed or put together, but where we assure a commitment to our customers: they are to receive a great product that can work in the conditions we promised.

With a FAT (Factory Accepted Test) in the upcoming week, I went to Allan Taylor, our Start Up, Testing and Commissioning Officer, to learn more about the intricate process of double and triple checking a truly Custom Air Product. He put it to me perfectly: CAPS creates “the Formula 1 race cars of air conditioning.” And with something that powerful, you need to double, even triple check its safety and performance.

The process of testing a prototype begins with the obvious: a visual check and integrity analysis. Is the entire unit whole? Is all the wiring connected properly? Are all mechanical components installed as designed? Is there anything that appears to be missing? To put it simply, we want to make sure we have a 100% complete and safe unit that can be initially run.

Then we heat things up a bit. The test booth is brought to varying simulated conditions such as ASHRAE standards (80

Higher Ed for Field/Tech Folks

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I am what is commonly called in academic circles “an older learner”. I received my Bachelor of Science in 2007 at the age of 47, my Master of Science in 2008 at 48, and am hoping to complete my PhD by December of this year, at the age of 54. Part of my delayed learning experience was that I was a “field person” working as an Instrument Technician, and later as an Operations Technician, for many years. There is typically no higher education available for these kinds of people, even if they want to pursue it. Then I discovered the University of Houston’s Organizational Leadership and Supervision (OLS) program in the college of Technology (note: it was called Technology Leadership and Supervision when I graduated).

The OLS turned out to be an excellent program for someone like me. It was in these classes that I learned that older learners really do have things to contribute and I had many younger students wanting to sit next to me, to have me on their teams, or to include me in their study groups. And it wasn’t because I was smarter than them, but rather that I had experiences to share that they didn’t. Classes at UH are no easy thing, but not only did I survive intact, I also realized that I had more I wanted to learn. I began my MS program at the University of Texas, Austin, just one week before my UH graduation. Again, that turned out to be an excellent choice for me.

My point here is that just because you are in a traditional field as a craftsperson does not mean you are excluded from opportunities for higher education. Also, you should not let your age be a deterrent as your field experience will definitely be an asset in your classroom interactions and exercises. I took all of my classes while holding down a full-time job. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. And the benefits are really hard to measure but impossible to ignore. Not only did my employers recognize this as an indicator of my capabilities, recognition that moved me over into management roles, but knowing I had both the experience and the academic training gave me the confidence to try new things, take new risks, and pursue new challenges.

If you are a “field technician” of some kind but think you might have what it takes to go further, you might consider the path I took and pursue enhancing your education. As I prepare to defend my dissertation in my pursuit of a PhD, I can still look back and remember how unsure I was when sitting in a university classroom in my late 40s. Anyone who knows me know will recognize that I’ve come a long way since then. The path I chose was definitely the right one for me and perhaps it might be for you too.

For more information about the University of Houston OLS program, be sure and check out their website at

Filed under: career, education, experience

Women in HVACR

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I belong to a group called “Women in HVACR” and have for a year or so. This morning I got an email from someone at HVACR/Hydronics Distribution magazine asking members of the group to submit input to a short survey. As a PhD student, I often feel “compelled” to participate in surveys (“survey karma” is what our instructors preach) so I figured I’d take a few minutes and fill this one out too.

As is often true, merely participating in the survey gave me time, and the excuse, to reflect on something I would not have otherwise considered. It didn’t take long, but it was nice for me to have take a few minutes and put into words my feelings about being a member of this industry. So…I thought I’d share them here with you.

Question 1: What do you think of when someone says: “Women in HVACR”?

Answer 1: As a member of the HVACR industry, my interest is automatically piqued as this is a small enough “club” to be considered “elite”.

Question 2: What suggestion(s) would you offer that would encourage more women to enter the industry in the next five years?

Answer 2: First, there are many places in the industry that are well suited to the abilities and capabilities that women can bring…nothing, in my opinion, is off-limits here. Second, with a substantially greater percentage of men in the field, particularly in technical and leadership positions, this is a perfect place for a confident young woman to begin a career and be assured of the ability to grow, move, and to be noticed. Finally, as recent years have our industry looking at energy conservation, reductions in environmental impacts, Smart and Green building applications, etc. participation in the field can be challenging and rewarding, but also part of some bigger picture efforts that have far-reaching effects. The HVACR industry space is a great place for women, and other minorities, to explore.

Question 3: On a personal level, what have been the most rewarding aspects of working in the HVACR industry?

Answer 3: After spending a number of years in the petrochemical industry, I’m actually a bit late coming to the world of HVACR. I work for and with some incredibly knowledgeable, talented, and innovative people and there’s something to be said for the satisfaction that comes from being a member of such a team. There are lots of technical challenges that come my way (yes, even in the role of Marketing Manager!) and I find it very rewarding to work through those issues and come up with solutions that work.

Question 4: Are you a current member of Women in HVACR?

Answer 4: Yes
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Explosion Proof HVAC: Air Conditioners for Hazardous Location

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See our Explosion Proof HVAC page!

It’s My Birthday and I Have to Work…Yippee!

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Yes, that’s right. Today is my birthday. Not typically a big fan of holidays (probably all those years of missing holidays due to shiftwork have de-sensitized me), I’m actually looking forward to today.

As a general rule, I enjoy coming to work, although it took me a while to settle in here. I think it’s because in my typical over-achiever fashion, I really hate being the one in the room that doesn’t know something. And here in “commercial-and-industrial-HVAC-world“, well, these days that’s often me. I have a strong industrial background, ground-up in fact having started my working life as an Instrument Technician, but often feel a bit out-of-place in this highly specialized industry. But…the situation is steadily

For one thing, I’ve found a handful of things here at CAPS that I am one of the best at. For instance, pretty much everyone knows now if they have an Excel question, they should come to me. Also, I’ve written some jam-up press releases lately (it’s my English grammar and rhetoric background) that make us look and sound like the professionals we are. Also, while I’m not a pro at Photoshop or InDesign, I can get the more informal jobs done when needed. So, I’ve now got a comfort zone that is allowing me to enjoy my work and respond to company needs.

But the birthday thing…well, that’s something else entirely. I think the pleasure in coming to work on my birthday may have something to do with how much our company feels like family. I’m not talking the Hallmark card family, but a highly interactive, riding the ups-and-downs, occasionally dysfunctional and not always totally happy family. You know…a “real” work-family.

When I try to put a finger on why it feels like that here at CAPS, I think it must have to do with the work we do and the way we do it. When projects come in that push us to our design, manufacture, or installation capability limits, we buckle down, together, and push through to get it done. Not only do we value our customers, but we also value the relationships we build with them. In order to meet their needs we often have to put in the extra time, work odd hours, reallocate manpower, and perform some crazy work activities. Work through a few of those intensive project activities with the group around you and you’ll see what I mean. Intensive group activities, in my experience, result in either bonding, or breaking. We’ve built some really strong bonds here.

So, here I am at the start of my day and have TONS of fun things planned. I’m spending the morning with two of our Service department folks working on some spreadsheet automations designed to make their work flow better. Then, I’ll be teaching an Excel class over lunch. After that, I’m trying to finalize two brochure designs, work through some details on our upcoming trade show, and complete a SlideShare presentation that shows off a big project working its way through our shop this week.

Yikes! Look at the time! Guess I better get my gear (laptop and notes) packed up and head out now. But I did want to share my news with you…it’s my birthday, I have to work, and I’m happy about it. I guess if you had a great team of people around you all the time, you’d feel that way too.

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