May/June 2022 President’s Message: How to Overcome Barriers to Joining Our Community

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May 4, 2022

By Christopher Giffin, RRC, AIA, President

When I started think­ing about this month’s column, I jotted down some notes about what happens in May. Spring is in full swing for most of us. There’s Mother’s Day. And, of course, it’s the peak time for graduations. As members of the class of 2022 receive their degrees and enter the work­force, this is a moment of opportunity for them and for building enclosure professionals.

I’ve been remembering my own journey from college graduation to today. When I start­ed out in the professional world, I was excited by the prospect of being an architect. I thought maybe I would be the next famous designer like Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe. I didn’t start out thinking I’d specialize in build­ing enclosures, but my employer asked me to help some of our more senior people who were. This led to working on another project, and then another. Fast-forward 30-some years and here I am, still loving every day. We all have our own journey that led to the building enclosure world. We want new graduates and young pro­fessionals to take the first steps in theirs.

Along the way, many colleagues have become some of my best friends. We met on jobsites, at industry events, and at scheduled golf trips. Through our professional networks we stay in touch. I was so happy to see some of you in March at the 2022 IIBEC International Convention and Trade Show in Orlando, Florida. At the convention, I was excited to engage with many emerging professionals and students who attended because of the RCI-IIBEC foundations’ scholarship opportunity. I valued the chance to meet new people with fresh ideas and a different perspective. I’m thrilled when they tell me that they feel wel­come in our community.

I also wonder at times why I don’t see more new faces, and I worry that some may face barriers to entry that I don’t fully under­stand. As mentioned in my last column, one of my top priorities as IIBEC president is to “expand, grow, and diversify our member base.” In today’s job market, young professionals have many choices. If there are barriers in their way, we’ll lose the students to competing disciplines.

So, what are the barriers to joining the building enclosure community? IIBEC has established a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to help provide recommendations to the association for reducing these barriers. We also need to reach out to more universities and pro­fessors to increase the awareness of the building enclosure profession. For the 2023 convention in Houston, Texas, which also corresponds to IIBEC’s 40th anniversary, the foundation has a goal of sending 40 students to the convention.

To extend our success into the future, we’re all going to need to try new things.

  • To colleagues and friends from my gen­eration: I challenge you to extend your­selves as mentors to students, recent graduates, and other emerging profes­sionals. Tell them about IIBEC and the benefits of membership. Encourage them to partake in the array of educa­tional offerings and to get involved.
  • To employers and managers: I chal­lenge you to support the professional growth of your staff. Recognize the value of IIBEC credentials and the employees who earn them. Encourage younger employees to attend events like the IIBEC convention or symposium. Acts as simple as passing along your copy of IIBEC Interface or sharing a link to an industry webinar can also demonstrate that you are invested in your staff’s professional development.
  • To emerging professionals: I challenge you to get yourselves out there, get an IIBEC credential. Build your profes­sional network, make friends and allies in your generation. Push and pull each other on your own journey, and seek mentors who have more experience.

Whether you’re a long-time member or new to our industry, I’m eager to hear your ideas for how we can continue to grow and ensure our industry’s future success.