This is the first year since 2005 that I have not flown to Las Vegas for the annual AAPEX show. It’s the first time in 15 years I have not walked the NARSA/IDEA Heat Transfer Pavilion to see what the vendors have on offer and catch up with my industry colleagues. Many of these colleagues have become dear friends over the years. It is also the first time I have not attended customer appreciation night on Tuesday, which I believe to be the largest concentration of cooling systems and emissions professionals in one room anywhere. While I must confess that I have enjoyed the break from my usual travel schedule, I do long for the camaraderie that our NARSA/IDEA in-person events foster.
However, the greatest aspect of NARSA/IDEA in person events that I miss are the stories. NARSA/IDEA members are natural storytellers quickly digging out their phones to show pictures. I always find it humorous that you can always tell which phone belongs to a NARSA/IDEA member because they will contain the same mix of pics: Family, radiators/DPFs, and whatever hobby they tend to be into. Typically, the radiators seem to be the most prevalent. I just love seeing the latest field job somebody completed, the latest machine they designed themselves in the shop or oddball DPF that I had never seen before. These conversations in the hallways between sessions are where I have learned countless tech tips or where to source a particular product that I had been searching for.
While a picture is worth a thousand words and I thoroughly enjoy talking shop with fellow members, the most interesting tales to me are the backstories of how people started their careers and arrived at where they are today. We are fortunate to have business owners from remarkably diverse backgrounds in our industry. Since there is no radiator or emissions school that serves as a pipeline into our industry, our members come from a multitude of backgrounds. I know that some NARSA/IDEA members started working as engineers, auto mechanics, diesel mechanics, accountants, sales reps, delivery drivers, livestock traders, corrections officers and even a municipal bond trader (yours truly). These experiences that we shared through informal stories told at NARSA/IDEA events in the hallways or over a drink have possibly been one of the most valuable aspects of NARSA/IDEA membership for me. Yet this is probably one of the most difficult benefits of NARSA/IDEA membership to capture and convey.
With this idea in mind, we have decided to enter the world of podcasting. I was an early adopter of the podcast format and listen to various podcasts on a daily basis. For those that are not familiar with podcasts, it is essentially on demand radio that can be accessed from any smartphone or computer for free through the internet. The barriers to creating and publishing a podcast are relatively inexpensive and you are not competing for limited airtime slots on a traditional radio station. This has led to the production of more than 500,000 active podcasts in over 100 languages worldwide. The topics can be very niche and hyper focused on specific audiences. The Board thought that this would be the perfect platform to produce a podcast series focusing on people in the cooling and emissions industry. It will be called Solder & Soot: A NARSA/IDEA Podcast. The format will be interviews with industry leaders to learn about how they got their start, important lessons that they have learned throughout their career and advice that they have for others. These interviews would then be available not only for current but also future generations of cooling and emissions professionals. Once these stories are gone, they are gone forever. And I feel that these podcasts can also serve as a repository for the knowledge and history of our industry long into the future. I always enjoy listening to Frank Finger talk about the early days of complete radiator distribution and all the colorful characters involved. I only wish that I could have met some of the characters from those stories. Our podcast hopefully will do our part to preserve these stories for the benefit of all our members current and future.
In addition to the podcast, we will also be releasing more industry specific educational products. One of the main missions of the Board currently is, not only to increase the quality of the educational programming that NARSA/IDEA offers, but also how it is delivered. With the first virtual event, we were able to get real world data as well as feedback as to what worked and what did not. Taking into account what we learned, we will be releasing a series of monthly webinars on a variety of topics in the cooling and emissions industry in order to give our members more opportunities to learn. These webinars will be available on the website in perpetuity so that members can access them at their convenience from anywhere in the world. Our staff will be sending out more info when these are ready to launch and I highly encourage our members to check them out.
We hope to have our in-person meetings back as soon as possible. Our board and staff are working hard to provide value for our members in the meantime. While the events of 2020 have been challenging for the whole world, we intend to come out of this a stronger organization than when we started.