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Letter from the President

It’s graduation season.  Most high school graduates have already decided on their majors; some are still undecided on what subject area they want to pursue but will start their college journey regardless.  College graduates are embarking upon new chapter in their journey of life to a place called work, with a degree in a specific field. These transition periods are filled with emotions such uncertainty, anxiety, and excitement.

Like others, I am asked for advice by friends and family, even though I am neither experienced, nor qualified to dispense any advice. Based on my own personal experience, I offer the following advice to all - it does not matter which field you are going into or graduating from; find out if the field of your interest has an organization, like the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), that promotes the industry, provides professional development courses and certification, and offers networking opportunities to its members. For students entering or currently in college, see if there is a student chapter or if not, find out if the local or national chapter offers student discount for joining. 

My advice to the students entering college or recent college graduate is not only to join the organization or association, but more importantly to become an active member of it.  I joined AEE while I was in my graduate program, thanks to one of my professors who brought membership applications to every class and kept on encouraging us to join. I was motivated by another professor to attend the local chapter meetings, and for the past 18 years I have been an active member of New York Chapter of AEE. I joined the AEE while I was still young, inexperienced, and in school, and as such I did not understand in great details much of what was being discussed during meetings. However, I began to learn something that is rarely taught in the class room: who the major players in the industry are – manufacturers, products, vendors, services, and service providers.  It is very important to know the manufacturers because in the real world people mention the manufacturer rather than the product – for example, when discussing chiller, rather than saying chiller, I hear all the time people say, we have Trane unit, or a Carrier Unit, or a McQuay unit. I must confess, when interviewing candidates for an energy engineering position, I have intentionally asked questions about a specific model rather than a product in order to gauge the candidate’s level of field experience.  During an interview, when I ask a question about a specific but well known model, and if I notice a blank stare from the candidate, it is an indication that the candidate does not have much field experience.  Being an active member will certainly help you in this matter.

It is a well-known fact that people buy from people they trust.  This not only applies to tangible assets, but also to intangibles such as services or even hiring someone for a position.  Being an active member of an organization means attending the meetings.  The meetings that take place at local chapter level or at conferences during the course of a year give you an opportunity to network with others in our industry.  When you see the same people over and over, you get to know them, their personality, their character, and values they hold dear.  These people or people they know and trust can become a great resource for you, and at the same token you could be a great asset for them.  This is very helpful to someone looking to expand their business or seek trusted services.

Over the years, on several occasions, during AEE events, I have witnessed many distinguished experts of our industry offer assistance to others who have sought their counsel, without hesitation or irrespective of how it may impact their own business.  This self-sacrificing willingness to help others is commendable and I salute the work they do. Keith Ferrazzi, an American author, once said “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”   He might as well be describing our AEE members.

I did not realize all the benefits of being an active member at the time, but in retrospect, I have begun to appreciate the role AEE and its members have played in my professional and personal development.  I met my mentors and many more, at AEE events, who have given me guidance and encouragement over the years.  I am grateful to all and I will always cherish the priceless moments.  I suspect that anyone who has stayed active in any organization for a long period of time will not have any remorse; on the contrary, they will have more admiration of the mission.

To all AEE members, you have already taken the first step of joining the organization, now I urge you to become “an active member.”  I can assure you that just like me, you will find that being “an active member” is gratifying and offers a memorable journey.

 - Asit Patel, 2016 AEE President