Teaching Practical Engineering - A Different Approach to Sales Engineering
Reflecting back to my April 2007 column titled, “It’s Our Turn to Lead, Mentor, and Share,” I mentioned a potential new HVAC mentor with her new computer-aged approach to teaching and sharing. She caught my attention. In that column, I wrote, “Within the group of mentors who influenced me, there were a select few who really, really made a big difference.”
Of course, back in my early years of HVAC engineering, we didn’t have computers, software programs, etc., so this young sales engineer caught my interest on how she planned to lead, mentor, and share.
It has taken her 10 years and the start-up of her own manufacturer representative sales company to finally launch her quest, but persistence is the key to success. Back then, I listened to this young engineer’s goal to provide introductory technical skills to entry-level HVAC designers and entry-level graduate engineers anxious to succeed in the HVAC design and construction industry. She captured her plan under the title “Carbone Cook Book,” a three-ring binder (electronic of course) with her recipe of design engineering topics and solutions when discussing HVAC equipment and application to her design engineer clients.
The implementation of the plan back then was to be invited to meet with an HVAC designer and/or project manager to discuss a specific HVAC product and its potential to fit the design engineer’s requirements for a specific project. She would provide the traditional sales engineering help — e.g., equipment selections, computer-generated equipment drawings, and equipment specification for the job. In addition, this sales engineer wanted to also provide “soft skills” questions and answers, such as, “How did you determine this type of equipment was the optimum type of HVAC solution, etc.?”
Well, like so many things, life, or in this case, sales, got in her way. But her vision remained waiting for the right time to roll out “lead, mentor, share.” Sure, it’s an HVAC industry essential to be a graduate engineer these days and strive to be a registered professional in the years to come, but so often the theoretical overshadows the importance of practical engineering. This sales engineer’s approach is to provide the traditional manufacturer’s representative lunch-and-learn sessions focusing on specific equipment that she represents but also to offer some of the soft skills required to be a successful engineer or HVAC project manager.
I see this soft skills educational program differing from traditional sales engineer educational programs with her focus on teaching skills to technically improve the individual versus educating these individuals on product specifics, such as features and benefits, operating cost, etc. This mentoring vision is to provide system and equipment design engineering and professional development with evening sessions, where the student picks and chooses from the available curriculum. Drawing from the “Cook Book” courses will include discussions on how to analyze and select the optimum HVAC system for the application, how to write a system analysis and selection report, and how to complete the conceptual design engineering phase of producing contract documents to mention three education discussions.
The ultimate goal of this sales engineer, as she begins her new woman-owned business, is to educate young women and young men on the practical side of producing construction documents, equipment/system design and start-up, report writing, use of quality control checklists, and presentation skills. Sure, she will still provide the traditional product-specific education lunch-and-learn sessions to raise awareness to the equipment manufacturers she represents, but this concept of hers is unique coming from the manufacturer representative side of the HVAC business.
I consider myself an HVAC practitioner, so I can relate to the idea of an introductory HVAC course that focuses on the practical side of HVAC engineering. However, I have never experienced a single sales engineer investing the time and the training room to bring practical engineering to HVAC designers and the entry-level engineer community. Analogous to listening to audio self-help CDs that educate one on time management and contribute to rounding out one’s education with classes on introduction to practical engineering to the HVAC industry, this sounds pretty unique to me. Someday this mentor will be remembered like I still remember those who helped me along the way.