A Dedication to “The Lost Art of Steam Heating”
I was never an A student in high school or in college. It was my math and science classes that helped me graduate with a decent GPA. It was just something about problem solving and fixing things that was pretty cool to me. Give me a challenging math or science problem and I’d stay up till all hours of the morning trying to solve it. Give me a book to read and it was my cure for insomnia. Don’t get fooled, I’m no math wizard; I still have a hard time with fractions and decimals but with smartphone in my hand, I am a genius.
Since reading put me to sleep, after fighting to finish college in exactly 4 years, the last thing I wanted to do was read another book. In 2003 when a fellow SUNY Maritime Alumni, my new boss, gave me a book The Lost Art of Steam Heating you can only imagine how I reacted to reading a thick book. I didn’t understand the importance of continuing to educate myself; I felt after college, I was done! It’s only now do I understand to value of advice from successful superiors. I remember him telling me, "You need to treat this book like an engineers bible." Last week, after having the privilege of speaking to the legendary author of that masterpiece, did I really appreciate the value of the golden nugget that was thrown my way. If anyone doesn’t know who Dan Holohan is you need to visit HeatingHelp.com's store where you can purchase any of the 19 books that followed his initial signature piece.
Dan agreed to an interview on 8/10/16. (You can listen to this interview here.) In this interview, he shared his struggles with learning here’s what he said, “When I was in my 20s, I learned that I had a condition called dyscalculia. It's similar to dyslexia, but it applies only to a person's ability to work with numbers and concepts that substitute one thing for another, such as learning Spanish. I still can't do basic math.” Hearing his story really touched me because he added: “Many contractors, writing under pseudonyms, admit that they are dyslexia, and that this is what drove them into the trades in the first place. The trades are tactile. It's also why many contractors don't read instructions. They can't read well. Consider that most manufacturers use engineers to write their installation manuals. It then becomes a matter of trying to explain clouds to fish.”
Not all tradesmen/tradeswomen have learning disabilities, but because everyone learns differently many can’t effectively communicate their ideas, their work sometimes goes unnoticed, and unappreciated. Even though I no longer work for LogCheck, I support their product because it gives operators the ability to have a voice. When Dan said, “I compensate for my lack of math skills by using pictures, which, I think, is what makes me a successful writer. I can explain things without using equations.” This reminded me of the photo feature the mobile app has. A picture says 1000 words, which allowed them to only have to say a few.
People in our industry don’t often share their struggles, so I’m sharing this story with all of you. Know that your jobs are important and it’s necessary to do rounds. Unless your building is one that may exist in the future with sensors covering every inch of it, you are the sensors. Operators are the eyes and ears of a building, plant or facility. We are not aesthetic plastic surgeons who focus on the pretty exterior; we are practical and logical thinking folks. We are building surgeons who are concerned with the internal organs of mechanical systems. Our skills are in demand and necessary. Building rounds provide the diagnostics and require trained people. I tell you Dan’s story because he graduated college at 36. It’s never too late to learn and I encourage every operator to continue to educate him or herself and get a copy of The Lost Art of Steam Heating. I promise, you will learn something you didn’t know before. If you have a copy, read it again. Superstars can be created with the right tools, proper training, and determination. If you are interested in advancing your career with an online national certification in HVAC, please visit www.ebs.nyc.
Annmarie Bhola is an engineer and the owner of Enhanced Building Solutions, LLC. EBS is committed to transforming the culture within the building industry through training and leadership.