Name: Tracey Jumper
Title: Corporate Director of Commissioning, EMCOR Services Mesa Energy
Educational Experience: Bachelor's Degree in Architectural Engineering, Penn State University
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP)
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE – Special Projects Committee for Commissioning Standards 202, 230 (Existing Buildings); ASHRAE Region X Treasurer and Southern Nevada - Board of Governors; Building Commissioning Association (BCA) – Lead Instructor for the Multi-Day New Construction and Existing Building Cx Courses. In the past: BCA International Board of Directors; ASHRAE Regional Vice Chair; Chapter President/Anthracite; PGA Korn Ferry Tour Walking Scorer; Las Vegas Motor Speedway & Pocono Raceway Fan Councils; U.S. Parachute Association; F1 & IndyCar Volunteer – Circuit of the Americas.
Achievements: Credited subject matter expert for the "Building Commissioning Handbook," Third Edition, 2017; content and editorial contributor for "Existing Building Commissioning Best Practices," 2019.
Awards: USAF Key Spouse Wing Award, 2021; Consulting Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40, 2020; BCA President’s Award, 2016; and ASHRAE New Faces of Engineering, 2011
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
In seventh grade, I had a teacher who recognized my interest and ability in science and sponsored my participation in the middle school science fair. I wasn’t immediately in love with science, but I had a blast running experiments with friends and family to test the “Effects of Caffeine on the Body (Response Time).” I won first place, which sparked my passion.
In high school, we had a teacher who let us stay after school to run experiments when we didn’t want to run right home. We did instructor-prescribed chemistry and biology activities. That evolved into a river club to study the effects of mine drainage on the Susquehanna. It was the first time I had the ability to investigate a community issue and learn how to set a path for studying and solving. That fueled it.
As a younger professional, it was having the privilege of being a VIP in Washington, D.C., during Engineers’ Week in 2011, when I won the New Faces of Engineering award. This event exposed me to some of the most impressive engineering leaders I’d ever met. These individuals were engineers themselves who supported engineering and scientific innovation: CEOs from companies like Bentley Systems and Raytheon, MIT inventors, an astronaut, and several White House staff members. Any time you get to have lunch with an astronaut, do it; you’ll absolutely fall in love with engineering even more after such an encounter.
The exposure and opportunities that followed accelerated my work in commissioning, especially in existing buildings. When you can use limelight to energize your work, there’s nothing better.
Most recently, it’s been the culture and outreach at my company. I’ve been here for two years now, and the first time I met my future bosses and teammates (founders of our Cx division), we had a blast sharing ideas and immediately got to laying the foundation for the commissioning innovations we’ve introduced into the mechanical service world.
It's that gelling, culture, and collective love for fixing existing buildings that keeps the work interesting and the love alive every day.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
It’s automatically rewarding to work in mechanical engineering, specifically commissioning, since the work is focused on maintaining comfort, health, and safety for people in facilities. You get to fix systems and make buildings, processes, and life better for the people who need it all to work well. It’s rewarding to solve issues related to system inefficiencies and the resultant environmental impacts of buildings. Existing building work can be grimy, challenging, and requires a ton of diplomacy, but the outcomes are worth the elbow grease, usually tenfold.
When you love to fix buildings, a cool side effect is that you are called on to work in some of the coolest, high-profile facilities with the most sophisticated ops teams.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
Retrospectively, there are two: When I started my own business and when I contributed to the "Building Commissioning Handbook," Third Edition.
Both moments did not feel like proud ones as they happened. They were difficult, defining moments that were more about work and progress that needed to happen at the time.
When I started my business, it was at the point when people started calling on me for my expertise, paying for me to travel across the country to re-commission their facilities and campuses. When you finally are in a position where people stop telling you what to do and start asking you what to do, that’s a proud moment, but it doesn’t hit you until much later.
Writing and editing the "Building Commissioning Handbook" also was more about the call to support. There were few individuals whose expertise was specifically in commissioning existing buildings. It took long hours writing, editing, collaborating, and debating, and that was the subject matter effort alone. I didn’t know until after it was published that I’d be credited. I was glad we were putting more guidance down in writing for a specific process where the previous instruction basically was, “apply the new construction commissioning process to existing buildings.” With people inside and operations in full swing, there are so many more things to consider (versus new buildings). The book has been the commissioning industry’s main guidance for existing buildings for several years now. Next up will be the new ASHRAE Standard 230, which is set to be published in the summer of 2022.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example? Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?
When I was a student/intern around 2003, the brochures for our professional association conferences still included “wife” instead of “spouse.” Our industry was behind on every social/professional mark when it came to inviting women as members.
A few years later, the language was changed to “spouse” or “guest,” and there were women in engineering events and talks. These were evolutionary steps, but in the 10-15 years after, well-intentioned diversity events and presentations trended more as segregating and offensive than productive.
Somewhere in the last few years, there seems to have been a shift. The women in engineering gatherings have become more inclusive and less offensive to the point where everyone attends. The scene has shifted so both women and men look forward to attending and networking together. It seems much more in celebration of women in the field rather than being a women-only activity. It’s the same with presentations. They seem more focused on maintaining a full workforce versus only promoting “we need more diversity.”
Still, as challenges go, there are still the ever-annoying day-to-day issues of needing better gear, work apparel, and personal protective equipment (PPE), although there are a few companies that’ve broken through and have quality products. We’ve started trading notes and writing about products, clothes, and tips and tricks for finding things that fit us better and allow us to maintain safety, confidence, and femininity.
There are still places where we have trouble locating womens’ restrooms (think “hidden-figure,” formerly all-male facilities). The cool thing is that our male counterparts on jobs are with-it, and, when it came up the other day, the reaction was supportive.
A main, big-picture challenge is that, even in the most innovative, progressive companies, women have worked their way up to the board room but still need the empowerment to have a position there. These are not positions you can commandeer. They require ability, recognition of that ability, and then someone to empower and appoint females to these leadership positions. You don’t see female leads in the highest positions often. It’s disheartening to have so few role models to provide us their notes on what the work is like and how to get there.
The mark for success for this might be when another “Women in Construction” week rolls around, and companies are posting photos and stories of women leading their service, engineering, and operations teams (versus support staff only).
What does your day-to-day job entail?
As the director and founding member of the commissioning division at EMCOR Mesa Energy Systems, our headquarters is in Irvine, but home, for me, is Las Vegas. Two years ago, when I started, we were one of a few contractors with in-house commissioning teams, and the only one around specializing in existing buildings. For the last two years, on any given day, it’s been developing and tweaking a custom process and working with our technicians, project managers, and engineers. We have 20 offices in three states, and I coordinate and equip our project teams with contracting-specific commissioning tools and procedures. This allows us to test and fix a lot of buildings.
The day to day also includes overseeing commissioning and retro-commissioning tasks on about 60-70 different projects (or more) and traveling three to four days every week around our offices within California, Nevada, and Arizona. It’s keeping the project managers and technicians trained on the latest tech and kicking off or performing the testing activities on certain sites.
This last week I was in Phoenix and then the Reno/Tahoe area to round up with our general managers, sales, and project management teams to launch additional Cx efforts and troubleshoot some project issues. Then, it was testing boiler plant equipment in Pasadena. Meanwhile, we had Cx meetings and testing activities going on in San Diego; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; and Fresno, California. From our tech sites and hospitals to resorts and movie studios, I get to work in some of the coolest facilities in the world.
What drives/motivates you every day?
The power of teamwork inspires me. We improve more facilities in a week now than what I was doing with my previous business in a year, just a few years ago, is inspiring. Everyone has the same number of hours in a week, and I’ve gotten to the point of realizing how operations can be scaled and how much more can be done with teams, training, and a little trench work. It’s possible to do 10 times more with the same week, and it’s motivating to think about what impact we can make if we can develop efforts to improve 100 or 1,000 times more buildings, people, or resources.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
Life has been a whirlwind since our governors in the southwest announced lockdowns. That night, immediately, everyone within our company was on phone and texting about how to take care of our people and buildings. We needed to let our customers, friends, and peers know that if we were going to leave buildings, we needed to mitigate stagnations (which could create other hazards), and we needed to focus all efforts on how to make essential facilities safe. It was the fastest we’ve responded to anything as a team with leadership and tech and hygiene experts. It’s still the fastest we’ve ever come together to vet information and get messages out to our teammates, customers, and peers.
During lockdown, my travel went from three to four days a week to zero at one point, working remotely, and only being able to visit essential sites. It accelerated the development of the technician-driven portion of our commissioning work, since I couldn’t be on-site anywhere. We had to Facetime and figure out best options for web-based documentation. It helped us train up and adjust to figure out what software to use and what procedures we needed to be more field-efficient. It helped to scale our efforts, where, previously, I personally was visiting and performing the testing.
Occidental College’s director of facilities made a few of us part of his COVID response team as an advisor on retro-commissioning. We worked to verify and improve filtration, ventilation, IAQ, and HVAC safety. We had meetings with school leadership, residence life, and faculty on how to ensure that HVAC systems were safe and what messages to send to students
Pasadena Unified School District invited a few of us as engineering advisors to its administration when we were verifying its ventilation systems prior to its schools opening to students. That was a large effort and required a lot of coordination and subcontracting. We were having advisory meetings with the business administrator and superintendent staff constantly on how to convey the work and level of care to the public, especially leading into televised town hall meetings.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I’m hoping to have a larger part in solving climate change issues. First step, this year, is raising money for an organization called Cool Earth, which works to solve issues at the community level, all over the world. Our team “Fix Happens” (fixhappens.com) will race monkey bikes (tiny motorcycles), unsupported, from the Andes to the Amazon next year in Peru in April.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
My love and I were reunited after almost 20 years. We were best friends for a semester, had never been an item, and were split up by circumstance (in a time before social media and cellphones). Engineering made it so my mindset had always been “anything is possible.” The reunion made it so my mindset now is “the impossible is possible.”
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
My mom. She is the best entrepreneur and innovator I know. She figured out early on (10th grade) that she was great at doing hair, was good at making others feel good and beautiful, and earned a full ride to cosmetology school. She worked at hair studios and even worked extra out of our house until she was able to open her own salon, specializing in men’s hair (way before it was a trend). She’d been on TV makeover shows but always taught us to treat everyone the same, whether they’re a celebrity or not. She’s been the single biggest influence on how fast and effectively I can bring people of all sorts together to solve issues.
Frank Kilyanek is an industry mentor and friend from Pennsylvania who always has been a ceiling breaker for minorities and young engineers, especially in our professional organizations. We met when he was judge for a science competition when I was in high school and then worked together in ASHRAE later when I moved back to Pennsylvania. He was a past president and a supporter in my becoming first female president of the chapter in 2011.
Gretchen Coleman was a mentor who had a thriving business and gave up all her notes to help me start mine. She taught me how important it is to help other females and entrepreneurs unconditionally.
Tony DiLeonardo is an industry friend and mentor who partnered with me on jobs and taught me exactly how people and teams can be stronger together. Our peers were shocked at the thought of competing companies working together. Tony and I demonstrated the combination of expertise and teamwork gets much better results than anything our companies could do alone. It was such a hit that we were asked to speak in front of the U.S. Department of Energy and at the National Conference on Building Commissioning, among other audiences.
Diana Bjornskov roped me into the "Building Commissioning Handbook" subject matter expert team. This was grueling work to help write and edit portions of this book, and she kept us all together and motivated. It’s been the farthest-reaching building industry innovation to which I’ve contributed.
Bob Lake and Charlie Fletcher are my current bosses and provide a daily shot of energy and inspiration. They’re transforming our industry by eliminating process deficiencies the construction process has faced for eons.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Fail fast and forward. Accept that the fastest and most comprehensive way to make things more unbreakable, safe, and sustainable is to first figure out how things will break and improve from there.
Learn the environments and work that you hate so you can adjust and learn what you love.
Find the person you most want to be like and research the life they have, the impacts they make, and their trials to get to where they’ve gotten. Model yourself around them. If you find this impressive individual is also a female, that’s even better.
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