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The Importance of Mentoring, in Building Science and in Life

Mentoring Building Science Hers Rater Provider Education

Learning building science—or anything really—takes determination. My friend Jay always tells people when he’s teaching them to juggle that picking up that skill takes only two things: wanting to do it and spending time practicing.

Learning building science—or anything really—takes determination. My friend Jay always tells people when he’s teaching them to juggle that picking up that skill takes only two things: wanting to do it and spending time practicing.

He’s right, of course, but just learning to juggle gets you only part of the way there. That’s why there are juggling clubs and festivals around the world. Yeah, you can do it on your own, but you can learn so much more when you have mentors to help you with the difficulties and to keep you from going down a really weird path.

Learning building science, green building, energy audits, or HVAC is the same. You’ve got to start with a desire to learn and then spend time doing it. You’ll advance further, however, if you get some good mentoring along the way.

Joseph Lstiburek last year wrote a great article about the mentoring he received. His building science mentoring began when he tried to call out the speaker at a home builders association meeting and instead got put in his place:

“‘Sonny, when you finally learn your high school physics you can come and sit with the big boys.’ Just as I was going to do I don’t know what another guy gingerly put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a look that said come with me.” Joe calmed down then and got some great mentoring. Go read the article.

Finding mentors

With the Internet, we have a lot more opportunity for mentoring now. Blogs, LinkedIn, and social media allow us to learn from people who know more than we do, even some of the giants. Conferences are another great way to get personal mentoring.

Home energy raters are part of a system that has built-in mentoring opportunities. To be a certified HERS rater, you have to have a Provider. A good HERS Provider can give you the kind of mentoring you need to cement the learning you received in your training class.

Sometimes you have to pursue your mentors. You read an article and send an email to the author. You corner an expert at a conference (or buy them a drink) and ask them questions. You apply for a job with a company you know you can learn a lot from.

Other times, mentors appear in your life at just the right time. You still have to recognize them and establish the relationship, but this has happened to me repeatedly in my life.

Mentoring is strength

And let’s get one thing straight. Seeking mentoring is not a sign of weakness. When I was teaching at Haverford College, someone told me about another university where a new faculty member asked about mentoring at an orientation meeting. The leader of the meeting (a dean, I believe) said to the group: “The question is about handholding…”

Part of the problem is that we have this strange idea that vulnerability is bad. Seeking—or even being open to—mentoring is to be vulnerable. If that’s an issue for you, watch Brené Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability. (Even if you think you don’t have a problem with it, you should watch that video. It’s that good.)

I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors — in juggling, physics, building science, business, and life. Do you?


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. I’ve had great luck in having
    I’ve had great luck in having 3 exceptional mentors and access to others not afraid to share their expertiese. 
    fresh after passing state rater’s test, I was hired by a guy in charge of weatherization of 3 parishes in my state. he hired me as the building inspector. by the time I left weatherization…we had done so well together, that the area we served had increased to 5 parishes. 
    I also met one of the educators for ASHI. This man took me on new construction inspections & showed me things I still to this day automatically look for. 
    the third person has strong construction, hvac & insulation background. he has shared his expertiese freely with me. 
    locally there are hvac contractors, insulation contractors etc that I can call upon for answers to specific & what if questions. 
    IMO developing these relationships helps both myself & the contractor. 
    my three mentors taught me the value of sharing what I’ve learned. 
    and I know that I can call any of these people and just shoot the breeze, ask questions & share experiences. its a great relationship for all involved. 
    while there are those people who sit on what they know & don’t share with anyone…in my experience these are in the minority. 
    or maybe like minded people identify each other easily..and tend to surround themselves with the same. 
    I’ve even had the luck to call buildingscience & Joe answer the phone…who knew he answered the phone???  
    for me, its all about freely sharing info, exchanging ideas & NOT worrying that I’m teaching someone to do my job better than I do it… 
    once the realization that no one knows everything is understood, then job security is that you continue to learn…and share. 
    just my opinion!!

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