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Reliable Controls Training Department: Past, Present, and Future — June 2021 Newsletter

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Employee Profile:

MARK BREST

Q: What is your title and how long have you worked at Colorado Controls?

A: Senior Temperature Controls Design Engineer -
6+ years

Q: What have you gained from working at Colorado Controls?

A: I believe that I have brought to the table many of the talents that I have gained from over 20 years of experience in the industry. Examples of that would be engineering & design, HVAC equipment experience, various manufacturers' product knowledge of temperature controls from electric, to electronic, pneumatic, and DDC control, purchasing, and from time-to-time project management, as needed.

Q: How long have you lived in Colorado and what do you love about it?

A: I moved to Colorado from Springfield, Illinois on August 29th, 1979 when I was twenty one. That would make living here in Colorado 42 years now and I feel pretty much as if I am a native to Colorado.

Q: Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?

A: I would have to say Cancun was one of the nicest places I have been to for vacation and next I would say San Diego, CA would be the next.

Q: What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

A: I do not know about the weirdest job I have ever had, but I was a roller-skating floor guard for around three years or so during my sophomore through senior years while in high school and for about a year afterwards after I graduated.

Q: What does your job look like day-to-day? Can you describe a bit about what you do?

A: I generally check my emails first to see if there is anything that needs addressed or my attention immediately. No job for me is ever the same when it comes to engineering and design. However, with that being said, I stay busy full-time engineering and doing the control drawings for various types of projects, ranging anywhere from single-story office buildings to multi-story office buildings, schools (new and retrofit), assisted living centers, and large warehouses. These are just a few of the types of projects that we do.

Q: Tell me a little about your family!

A: We are a small family, and we pretty much keep to ourselves and live simple lives. We are pretty much private and maintain our boundaries between work and our private lives and just try and take care of ourselves and our family.

Q: What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

A: I enjoy music and playing the drums. I was in a band here in Colorado from 1984-1985 named Patchwork and we played top 100 music. We played many private venues, wedding receptions, a Christmas party for the Safeway Credit Union, and yes, we even played the bar scene. I am very big into NHRA drag racing, fishing, bowling, building custom computers, and roller skating. I was very big into roller skating in my younger years and was a speed skater and did some freestyle skating too.

Q: People would be surprised if they knew:

A: While growing up I had the opportunity to work under seven great chefs and I had the privilege of learning how to prepare and cook many types of gourmet types of dishes — from lobster thermidor to chateaubriand — and I have worked many breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners, banquets, and buffets.

Reliable Controls Training Department: Past, Present, and Future

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What were the first training efforts?

Twenty-five years ago, Tom Zaban (now president of Reliable Controls) taught the first Reliable Controls Authorized Dealer Certification program, together with Mike Stoneham (the first regional sales manager). In order to develop productive and successful dealers, they knew the training needed to be more than a basic presentation; they needed to teach a skills-based curriculum. Training kits, hand-built by Tom and Mike, were too costly to give to each student. Participation was capped at 12 students, who paired up to share hardware. In those early days, Tom would pack up his truck with equipment and drive across the province to teach, quickly adding Eastern Canada and the United States to his destinations. In response to student feedback, the course went from 3 days to 4 and finally developed into the 5-day course it is today.

The first Reliable Controls Authorized Dealer Certification class in the Eastern Canada region, taught at Humber College in Ontario. Pairs of students shared one training kit each—a method that demanded extra diligence; students could overwrite each other’s work if they opened the same worksheet simultaneously.

This training session sparked the concept of educational partnerships: We trained Humber College HVAC instructors on our controls and in exchange were granted use of their lab to train our first Authorized Dealers. We have collaborated with Humber College ever since.

How has our online training material evolved over time?

Interactive eLearning modules have been around since 2007. Our library of instructional resources grew from the half dozen modules available in 2008 to 18 modules for technicians and 34 instructional videos for operators in 2021. The videos—though initially created to assist anyone in the field who manages a Reliable Controls system—also prove useful to our dealers when training new hires. The interactive nature of the modules invites a deeper level of learning; these are the building blocks for our certification programs. The Dealer Certification Program is a prerequisite to any higherlevel training. We’re always adding material and refreshing existing modules as we release new technology.

Why does Reliable Controls insist on training dealers?

Quality. We aim to have the most satisfied customers in the building automation industry. Reliable Controls goes to market only through our Authorized Dealer network, which means the perception of our products in the market is largely dependent on solutions our dealer network provides. If our products are not installed, programmed, and commissioned , or serviced properly, we are less likely to have satisfied customers.

Our products are shipped as unconfigured, blank devices. On their own, they have very little value to a user. As an Authorized Dealer, you build the value into our devices by correctly installing, programming, and commissioning them. Having high levels of knowledge and training in our dealer network has been key to our success and will remain one of the most important factors in our continued success.

Was the new distance-learning format a reaction to the pandemic?

No, not really. We already offered some advanced instructor-led courses in distance-learning format in 2019. When the pandemic hit and we had to convert all our training to this format, we had some experience and infrastructure in place—thankfully.

In the long term, distance learning will make instructor-led training more accessible to dealers from all around the world. We are excited to offer the traditional classroom experience as soon as we can, and we’ll continue to offer distance learning as an option. Our goal is to support our entire dealer network; a variety of training formats will help us reach as many students as possible.

What are the challenges of distance training?

From a practical point of view, correcting technical issues can be challenging. Small challenges, which would be resolved in a matter of moments when we’re in the same room and on the same network, can snowball into big delays when we’re problem-solving remotely. To avoid this kind of time loss, we’ve put a lot of effort into structuring classes for success: The Desktop Device Stand is shipped to students plug-and-play ready, we’ve written additional details into exercises, and we use a cloud server for RC-RemoteAccess® and other software.

The other challenge is interpersonal: When we’re in a class together, we build rapport and camaraderie. Creating that energy and connecting with students is a lot harder while talking into a microphone and looking into a camera. It can be exhausting, trying to keep students excited and engaged , but we are committed to continuing to do our absolute best.

Desktop Device Stand

What other innovative training efforts are in the works?

One new initiative is to make our training available on demand by converting all our instructor-led content into self-directed learning—videos, interactive exercises, and more. You will be able to learn how to use RC-Reporter®, RC-WebView, and RC-Passport at any time. Our instructors will engage self-directed students by offering livestreams, for example, where students can chat, ask questions, and explore things further. Not to worry—we’ll also still offer instructor-led courses for anyone who prefers that format.

Do you have plans to expand your team of instructors?

Yes! We currently have a position open for a training instructor based in Canada. We’d also love to hire an instructor at our Singapore office. Finding the right candidate is challenging. Ideally the person would be an expert in building automation in general and in Reliable Controls in particular. However, it isn’t enough to be an expert—they also need to enjoy teaching and have excellent presentation skills. As you can imagine, the number of ideal candidates is quite small, and unfortunately they are usually working in our Authorized Dealer network. We want to avoid recruiting people from the network as much as possible, so finding the right candidate takes time. We would love to create a program in which we can collaborate with Authorized Dealers to build our team of training instructors in a mutually beneficial way. How such a collaboration will work remains to be determined. We are open to innovative ideas.

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