Privileged. If asked to provide one word to summarize my Leadership U experience, it would have to be privileged. There are so many highlights and opportunities that came with Leadership U that I could come up with literally thousands of words to describe the conference in New York City, but I don’t think anyone wants to read my epic version of the near-week journey so I’ll try to keep this concise (well, as best as I can – for anyone who knows me, you will refresh your cup of coffee before you continue).
For starters, you may be wondering why I choose to call it a “journey”, but for me, that is exactly what Leadership U has been. From the moment that I received the letter of acceptance and began planning, straight through the trip home, the Leadership U experience was a journey of exploration and understanding about all things ASHRAE, especially the people that make-up ASHRAE, about the guidance and governance of our Society, and even self-realization. I am so honored to have been selected as one of the four participants in for the 2014 Winter Conference and to have had the opportunity to shadow Society Vice President Dan Pettway, who also serves as chair of the Publishing and Education Council, and is a member of the Planning Committee, the Finance Committee and Technical Committee 7.2. As you can tell, Dan is a busy man, but that did not stop him from being a gracious and enthusiastic mentor. I can’t thank him enough for sharing his week and expertise with me; likewise, I can hardly express enough gratitude to his lovely wife and right-hand, Terri Pettway, for allowing me to be their third wheel!
For me, the conference kicked-off on Friday evening with a Leadership U introductory meeting and from there it was nonstop until I headed to the airport on Wednesday afternoon, regretting that it was already over. Each day I was surprised by the depth and breadth of work completed at the conference while the impressive technical program ran simultaneously, giving me every opportunity to fully experience all sides of ASHRAE to the fullest. And each experience had me saying “that was the coolest thing I’ve seen/done in ASHRAE”… only to be surpassed by the next event. From the host committee reception on Friday evening to the Member’s night out on Tuesday, the camaraderie, mutual respect and continuous show of appreciation for each contributor’s hard work was transparent and emanated a feeling of friendship that extended even to us “new-comers” that were just there “crashing the party”. To be honest, I’ve been involved in ASHRAE for a decade now and have served at the chapter level and even at the Regional level; but my current role is coming to a close and while I’m familiar with many things ASHRAE, this opportunity gave me a chance to take all of the “dots” that I’m familiar with and connect them – a chance to make sense of how all of the work on the chapter level and at Chapter Regional Conferences filters up to Society and is brought forward to the Member’s Council, Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. Likewise, an opportunity for me to evaluate what direction I would like to take as my career in ASHRAE continues. (Again, you may question my choice of words in saying “my career in ASHRAE” as this is just a volunteer group right? ASHRAE isn’t signing my paycheck. But a “career” is more than just a job, it is a vocation, a calling and a livelihood – all of which I attribute to ASHRAE as it shapes me professionally and also shapes my profession). In addition to testifying to the personal and professional relationships fostered by ASHRAE, Leadership U also allowed me to see the time invested in each program and by each committee that composes our organization and drives our grassroots efforts. To say that the level of work that I witnessed was impressive would be an understatement. However, most impressive of ALL, was to witness the efficiency and precision with which that work was executed. I have never seen a group of professionals so fluently conduct and multi-task their way through agenda after agenda, contentious discussion after contentious discussion and meeting after meeting. And I can honestly say, I am inspired. That, in-and-of-itself, warrants the program name of “Leadership U”. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!