34 min read

🎧 #051: Rachel Kennedy on digital device discovery (Dx³) and reflections on teaching smart buildings

🎧 #051: Rachel Kennedy on digital device discovery (Dx³) and reflections on teaching smart buildings
The digital readiness score is our way of quickly highlighting whether the building is ready (for new technology).

We’re looking at network communication speed, the data density from the number of devices and points, the data accessibility based on the protocols, and the scope of the digital systems.

And that's been allowing us to say, “yes, you’re digital ready”.

—Rachel Kennedy

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter and podcast for smart people applying smart building technology—hosted by James Dice. If you’re new to Nexus, you might want to start here.

The Nexus podcast (Apple | Spotify | YouTube | Other apps) is our chance to explore and learn with the brightest in our industry—together. The project is directly funded by listeners like you who have joined the Nexus Pro membership community.

You can join Nexus Pro to get a weekly-ish deep dive, access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, and invites to exclusive events with a community of smart buildings nerds.

Episode 51 is a conversation with Rachel Kennedy, Digital Solutions Engineer at Switch Automation, and also my teammate in the delivery of the Nexus Foundations course.


We talked about what's new at Switch, including Rachel's new role as a Product Manager for the Dx³ offering and why Dx³ is valuable in the building digitization process.

Then we talked about what teaching the Nexus Foundations course has taught us about our industry and our hopes and goals for the course in the future.

If you're wondering what the course is like, this is an inside look at where we're at as we gear up for Cohort 3. Want to learn more?

Get on the Cohort 3 waitlist

Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus Podcast episode 51.

  1. Switch Dx³ (0:57)
  2. Nexus Foundations Course Waitlist (1:00)
  3. WSP (2:00)
  4. NREL (2:29)
  5. Nexus Podcast Episode 15: Deb Noller (3:42)
  6. The role of the smart building champion (24:15)

You can find Rachel Kennedy on LinkedIn.



  • What is Dx³ and why did Switch develop it (6:34)
  • The digital-readiness score (12:30)
  • The diverse skill sets and jobs of the smart buildings industry (21:21)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

James Dice: [00:00:03] hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

This episode of the podcast is brought to you by nexus pro nexus pro is an annual or monthly subscription where members get exclusive writing podcasts and invites to members only zoom gatherings. You can find info on how to join and support the Without further ado, please enjoy this episode, the nexus podcast.

Episode 51 is a conversation with Rachel Kennedy Digital Solutions Engineer at Switch Automation, and also my teammate in the delivery of the Nexus Foundations Course. We talked about what's new at Switch, including Rachel's new role as a Product Manager for the Dx³ offering and why Dx³ is valuable in the building digitization process. Then we talked about what teaching the Nexus Foundations Course has taught us about our industry and our hopes and goals for the course in the future.

If you're wondering what the course is like, this is an inside look at where we're at. As we gear up for cohort three without further ado, please enjoy. Next is podcast episode 51. Rachel, welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:01:32] Hi James. Thank you for having me today. I'm Rachel Kennedy. I'm a digital solutions engineer at switch automation, and I've been helping with the development of the, Exodus foundations course.

James Dice: [00:01:42] Cool. And it's been so fun working with you on the course over the last year.

What do you, can you talk more about your, your background? How did you get to where you're at today? In the industry?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:01:52] Yeah, so I studied architectural engineering, both from my undergrad and my masters. And I actually came into the industry at a really opportune time. At, at WSP, a large engineering consulting firms.

So right when we were starting to work on smart building projects um, so I had the opportunity to dive in right away working on large campuses, energy management control systems. So that was really exciting time to enter the industry. And then I actually moved to switch about a year ago um, to.

Work more on the implementation side, taking that design and programming that I was doing on the consulting side and actually bring it forward into operations for buildings.

James Dice: [00:02:27] Cool. And you and I met when actually, when I was at Enrail, but you were at WSP. I was trying to hire you and then you ended up going to switch and then we ended up working together anyway, which is great.

Can you talk more about your role at, at switch a little bit more about what you do every day?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:02:43] Yeah. So I am sitting on the Smart Building Solutions team. So I work with clients from the very beginning when we're installing the AR device on the network, working on the network issues and then beginning the integration.

So getting all the systems to talk together, whether it's developing new drivers with our development team. Or implementing that and bringing it into the platform. Um, So then from there I get to do the fun part of the analytics and the visualizations and the logic to really deliver on those use cases that we do and the programming phase.

And then on top of that, I get the opportunity to be product owner for digital device discovery or the switch to the XQ product. So working more on how we, how we develop that over time, working with the development team to bring enhancements and then work with customers to understand. Where the opportunities are and where we can solve some of those problems.

James Dice: [00:03:29] Right. Yeah. And I was on your webinar that you did a couple of weeks ago about the DX Q release. So I definitely want to dig into that in a little bit. Let's though build on the last episode first that I did with Deb was I think it was episode 15. I'll put it in the show notes. Uh, Switches, CEO, Deb Noller her and I kind of unpacked, you know, switches approach to the market and that episode.

So if you haven't listened to that, definitely go back and dig into that. So let's do an update on switch. So that was like 10, nine, 10 months ago. So what's a, what's new with switch these days.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:04:05] Yeah. So, well D excuse our latest product release, but I'm definitely bringing more down the pipeline.

But some of the really big things is we're really evolving to be more of an operating system for building. So, highlighting and leveraging a lot of our multi-system integration. So those drivers bringing the data together, normalizing it, tagging in a central place. And then. Um, Having the applications on top of that, whether it's FDD, the visualizations sharing data elsewhere.

So really working on that operating system of all those systems together in one place in one platform.

James Dice: [00:04:35] I see. And, and that's, that's sort of a. I would call it a buzzword. It's probably a buzzword at this point, but the building operating system. Right. So is that kind of how you guys define that buzzword, where you're, you're connecting all the devices, all the, basically all the silos as we talk about in the course, right?

And then your, you guys have your own applications that you can do, like enable with that data. And then you, you're saying, you know, you can plug in other applications

Rachel Kennedy: [00:05:01] as well. Exactly. So I think where we're highlighting the operating is having all the systems in one place, like you said, bringing those silos together and then how we can leverage that and really creating that environment.

So the applications are the best for the use cases that are defined.   So whether those are our applications or applications that the client might have, if it's tenant facing app, for example, to bring that billing operation together. Cool.

James Dice: [00:05:27] All right. All right.

What else is new?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:05:29] Yeah. So then I think another exciting part is go to market is changing quite a bit. So where we had traditionally fostered and focused on direct customers uh, we've been growing to more OEMs and now we're even looking for partners. So we have a few initial partners, but continuing to expand that with companies that are innovative, technical, want to really help foster and develop some of those applications and features.

So working and collaborating with them closely.

James Dice: [00:05:55] Awesome. Okay. And Deb, I mean, Deb's in Singapore right now, is that sort of network of partners developing kind of across the world. Yeah.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:06:06] So, yeah, Deb is in Singapore and we've been expanding, they're working with partners. And then we're also actually just expanding into Europe as well.

So we have a new teammate who joined our team as well as some contracts and OEMs that are starting out in that area as well. So we're trying to, starting to. Girl more globally which is really exciting for us.

James Dice: [00:06:24] Yeah, really cool. Really cool. Because most of the team that I know is here in Denver.

And so it's like kind of puts, you know, Denver, Colorado on the smart buildings map, which is super fun. Let's dive into Dx³. Can you just kind of talk about what it is and maybe how it kind of became its own thing, you know, sort of distinct from the rest of the building operating system.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:06:48] Yeah.

So Dx³, is our digital device discovery and it really came out of conversations that Deb was having with clients where they just wanted to understand what is in their building. And it's so foundational to Implementing a smart building strategy or program is understanding what's there.

And so we were using it as a tool to validate and understand what's there before we are moving forward with the integration that reduced our risk. It helped us evaluate the amount of time and effort that was required and work on some of those integration issues upfront before we started bringing in all the systems.

And so we actually noticed that it was a valuable tool for others as well to do that, whether it's a portfolio or program. So it's separate from the platform and that you're not required to integrate data to, to keep moving forward, but it can allow you to do that first step of your smart building program one time. You can also do it continuous. That's an enhancement I'll talk about when we talk about that a little bit more, but really just separate it from not needing a SAS model, but really can just get started and doing assessment.

James Dice: [00:07:50] Cool. And I wanted to zero in on the words sort of assessment.

So that's an entire week of the course that you and I created that we'll talk about in a little bit, but what is the value of this assessment step? Like what does it sort of avoid for people that are hoping to make their buildings smarter?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:08:07] Yeah. I think one of the big things that we also highlight in the course is there's so many different stakeholders involved in the design and operations of buildings, and there's often a separation between them. So, not always whether it's different budgets, different projects, different visions.

And so, sometimes you'll see that a company at the corporate level will set a strategy and a timeline without necessarily knowing what's at the site. And that makes it really hard to deliver on either a pilot project or very short timeline for a strategy.

And so if you step back and really do an assessment and understand what's there, what data's available, whether you can even communicate to it, and have an asset not registered, but asset list, you can really then set the strategy or pilot program that can be successful and can be realistic. And I think that's often where we see pilots fail is because that step isn't taken.

And so I think the snapshot of what you have is really a foundational step to creating a strategy. Yeah.

James Dice: [00:09:09] So what devices do I have, which devices are on the network? Which devices do, am I not seeing that expect to see on the network? Right? What protocols are those devices speaking? Like those kinds of questions don't get asked very upfront, and then you like expect to have a successful project and you end up hitting what we call landmines and the landmines, you know, started blowing up.

So can you take us through like the process for how, how deploying the Dx³ works?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:09:38] Yeah. So, right now we, we deploy it. So our appliance has its drivers built into it. So we'll deploy the appliance to the site. We'll run the scan and that's a multi-level scan. So first we're doing IP-based, but then we're also scanning for those protocols that we have built for the buildings, whether it's BACnet Mod, Bus OPC, and gathering all those details to provide that granularity, to really understand what the controllers are, what the models are, whether they're pre-configured controllers that are a lot easier to integrate, or whether they're programmable, which take a lot more time and good point lists that don't just include object one, object two. So I'm really getting that view of it. And then from there we've been able to classify those vendors and models to give you a snapshot of what your systems are and what some of those types of equipment are, really just from that database we've been able to build across our portfolio. So this really then provides insights into the complexity integration and the richness of the data and systems that are there. So like you said, are the systems communicating via open protocol? Like the BACnet or do we require upgrades to be able to communicate with maybe some proprietary systems?

Um, like you said, are the models pre-configured, will it be easier to integrate or are we going to have to do a detailed point selection that doesn't necessarily have that information or information we'll need from site to be able to do that. And then finally understanding what use cases we can enable from the data and systems that are installed there.

James Dice: [00:11:08] Can you talk a little bit about the driver piece of this too? So like, well, two twofold questions. So there's the driver piece, which is I, you know, I have this new system, I need to talk to that new system and whatever protocol that it wants to talk. Right. The other piece of that is the data modeling piece.

So I bring this new system on, it needs to be brought in and caught sort of in context with. The rest of the systems that are brought on, is that separate the data model piece separate from DX cube, like in the higher level of the, you know, the stack more in the building operating system piece of the stack.

So like where does the DX cube stop and where does the building operating system begin?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:11:47] Exactly. So, yes, we have separated those two out and the reason being, so that DX cube is that assessment. Where oftentimes when you then are bringing in those points and actually what we call our build feature, where the data's coming into the platform, you're configuring it, you're tagging it.

You're normalizing it. That's when we're leveraging those buildings or those data models and building them so that you have that granularity. So there's some intelligence that we're capturing from that DX cubed in terms of. What the devices and models are, but then when you get to the point level granularity of how these points relate to each other, that's where you build, you move into the building operating system.

James Dice: [00:12:28] I see. Super helpful. So on this release, what's sort of new about this release and where is it sort of going from, from here?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:12:37] Yeah. So I think the big changes that took place part of this release is first the digital readiness score. So that was our way of just quickly highlighting whether the building is ready to move forward.

So there's comprehensive assessments that were talked about on some of the previous podcasts, but this is looking at the network communication speed, the data density from the number of devices in points. The data accessibility based on the protocols and the scope of the digital systems.

And so that's been allowing us to say, yes, we can communicate with those devices. It has open protocols. We can see that it will be valuable for analytics or visualizations or whichever features. And you're above 50%. You have digital ready. If not where you get those low scores, those 20% is because we're finding Fox, which is a proprietary protocol or the communication speed is really slow.

So you can't run reliable analytics um, and that's highlighting where some of those upgrades might need to take place at site before moving forward with the strategy.

James Dice: [00:13:38] Totally. Yeah, we just had in our membership chat room, we just had someone yesterday post the question to the community around like, you know, I just hit this sort of integration, roadblock, like trying to figure out what to do.

Like somebody helped us. Right. And what this strikes me as is just like uncovering all of those types of things. Those roadblocks, before you get down, like too far down the road of trying to implement FTD or implement anything else that happens. Down down the line. So yeah, it seems really cool to me.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:14:08] Um, So yeah, and then other big changes are we can now track your scans to previous scans. So you can now do snapshots in time.

So we're seeing customers who are starting a project now and bringing them in doing those snapshots. So, this month we saw 20 devices. The next month we saw 30 and, and tracking that progress through those scans The bigger, the other one is just highlighting which devices offline. So sometimes you'd expect to see that for tenant improvements.

But other times your devices go offline and they spent hours troubleshooting analytics when it was really a network communication issues or trying to bring that up to the front as well as as another part of this feature release.

James Dice: [00:14:48] That piece is huge because I feel like that's always something that I've talked to FDD vendors around is like, there's obviously the FDD that you're intending to do on the underlying systems.

Right. There's also a layer of FTD that is just like, like, is the data still good? Right? Like, cause people think about integration a lot of times. And like a one, one time, it's not a one-time thing. Right? You might bring points into a smart building software system any, any type of system. Right. But then two days later, someone could unplug something, you know, it could change.

Like there's so many different things that could happen after the fact. And so that, that first layer of analytics I think, is just like, you know, data, quality analytics that's needed.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:15:29] Exactly. Yeah. Because otherwise you're going in troubleshooting something where it's not the root causes the issue again.

And so how do we provide reliable analytics and account for changes that have been on site that are known or unknown? Because they're trying to solve a problem. Yeah,

James Dice: [00:15:45] totally cool.

So, so give me some juicy stories about like, what are you finding in these buildings that this has being deployed and that sort of validates the need for it?

Anything, any juicy, juicy stories?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:15:59] GC story. So, we have couple of large portfolio clients that use DX cube as a tool to understand which sites were digital ready, which ones required minor upgrades. And then which required larger upgrades. And. Ironically, there were some that were actually a lot easier that were put in the original category of this would be very difficult.

Well, others were put in the category of, Oh, we'll be able to get that on in a week. And we're still troubleshooting issues. So I think it's, it's quite interesting because it does provide value in both ways. The site was either communicating slow and using proprietary protocols. And then they need to do a network upgrade or.

We were actually able to find backnet when they thought it was only Fox. And so this allowed us to bring in those points a lot quicker. But the bigger piece of it is the infrastructure upgrade budget was actually different than the operational budget for the site team. So by finding this early, they could budget for the upgrade before then installing the rest of our platform.

And so it allowed that internal budgeting to happen in a, in a reliable way.

James Dice: [00:17:05] Cool. All right. So how, how does this, like this product, you said it's like separate from the building operating system, the more SAS type of product. How was, how do you guys sell this? How do you go to market with this product?

If I'm thinking about maybe testing the digital resonates in my

Rachel Kennedy: [00:17:21] building. Yeah. So we've been going directed customers a lot. And that's allowing them to do that kind of asset assessment across all of their sites. Um, But then

James Dice: [00:17:33] on their own type of thing,

Rachel Kennedy: [00:17:35] Yeah, so we will pre-configure it when it gets into them.

And then it's just a plugin and a start. So it makes it pretty easy. We're actually moving to a Docker in a couple months, so that will allow them to not even need the hardware. They can install it on an approved hardware of their own choice. So it makes it even easier for that installation and, and running the scan.

And then the other market go to market is through partners. So oftentimes we'll see that if they have ongoing projects or they're doing the commissioning, they'll want to be scanning it on a regular basis to understand what's changing and what's happening on the network. And we've found a few times going back to some juicy stories where the vendor said they were done.

Uh, We found all the points were just uh, typical points weren't actually named correctly. Say we were able to call them back within a week to get that change. So it allowed us to avoid that challenge of happening later on. So really using that construction time effectively. So using partners for, for that progress as well.

James Dice: [00:18:32] Yeah, the old, the old contractor says they're done problem. Sorry, contractors. You're never usually done when you say you are especially from a data standpoint.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:18:42] Yeah. So, and Heather JC story is we were working with a client we're going to do their FDD.

They really focused on their central plant. Wanted to do some optimization there. And we couldn't find any of their cooling towers and they're asking what's going on. They had paid in the contract sounds that it was back net IP. But it was never validated. They never needed the data outside of the system.

So when we came on to do the, the fault detection we then exposed another issue. And so, it didn't. Exactly. And as they had hoped, but we were able to ultimately get those exposed, bring them into the platform and run those FDD. But that's another thing do you execute is, is finding is the sooner you can do it, the sooner you can get it fixed, but otherwise it becomes expensive and and time consuming.

James Dice: [00:19:28] Totally. That's a good one. So that's really cool that I want to ask you just from, as we sort of transition into piece of the discussion on the course, how have you sort of as someone that's.

Like w how many years of experience do you have in the industry now? five ish like that. So you taking on this product manager role, I want you to talk about how that's gone and like how, how has it been for you and what have you learned?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:19:55] Yeah, I would say it's been a big learning curve and a lot of good ways.

I think. The course has helped in that because I've been able to hear a lot of these problems that people are having across the industry and then think about how we can solve them, what we can bring that helps them in real time. And so translating. That understanding of what the problem is to a technical software.

Programming is a very different skill set. And fortunately we have a very patient smart team who is willing to work with me. But the other aspect of it is the testing of it. So you have a vision, you run it on a few sites and you find more issues. And so then how do you evolve the product? To now solve the new problems that you're finding versus the problems you thought only existed.

Um, And so it keeps you on your toes um, and it's really fun. And that way, because it's constantly evolving, constantly improving to, to continue to bring insight to what is actually there.

James Dice: [00:20:56] Cool. That's such an exciting career move. So congrats on that.

Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.

This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview.

So, so you and I started talking about this course, I don't know when it was maybe last June, something like that.

I had talked to someone at switch about doing the course. And then all of a sudden I hear Rachel wants to help. So, I don't remember if it was you or, you know, Patty or Deb or somebody said, you know, Rachel wants to help. So I was like, all right, awesome. So first of all, I want to say thank you.

We're, you know, we're two, two cohorts into the course and you've been such a awesome help and sort of getting it off the ground. So thank you. Now that it exists, it's here a year later. Uh, Thank you. Thank you. So we've talked about 70 students so far, something like that. I want to hear what you've learned from meeting all these people and all the time we've spent with them, are the, the top three things things you've learned from meeting the future smart building nerds of our industry.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:22:24] Yeah, I think the first is that everyone's coming from such different backgrounds. So we have the very technical integration specialists to  the business side that are interested in how smart billing strategies work together.

And for being so young in my career, it's exciting because it shows that there's so many different ways to move into the smart building industry and it's not a straight line. And so it also adds to the conversations of how we're holistically approaching this problem, this opportunity from all these different angles and working together to do that.

So I think that's a big piece. I think the second is just the curiosity and brilliance of all these people.

So, yeah, I guess the second one is just how curious and interested everyone is, is in and learning, which makes it pretty exciting to solve these problems collaboratively and create really, truly smart buildings. I think we're still a little bit a ways away from that, but definitely the, the brilliance is there with this group of people.

So I'm excited to continue to learn with all of them. And then the last I would say is just, a lot of different people have tried and approach smart buildings in different ways. So it brings those perspectives to understand those landmines, where they are, how to solve them and hopefully how to avoid them.

So I really enjoyed the breakout sessions for that reason. And sometimes when, when the students go on little rants, you actually learn a lot through it. So it's pretty exciting there.

James Dice: [00:23:50] Yeah. We it gets some amazing rants. There's a lot of history, the concept of smart buildings has been around for a long time.

Right. And it's still so nascent at the same time, but there are a lot of people that have hit the landmine in our industry. So I love hearing the stories as well, even though, you know, there's a lot of like pain and heartbreak built up in them, just like I've had my fair share of landmines.

It's still fun to hear, you know, people talk about this, that, and the other thing, you know, cause sort of blowing up the project. And so it's like, ends up being sort of like a group therapy and some ways to, some people have called it. But, but I love that. That's one of the things I've learned too, is like our industry is so dynamic right now and fast moving, but it's also dynamic in terms of the number of people that are wanting to be involved in it and wanting to make a difference in it. I mean, if i listed out, the quote unquote like jobs that people currently have of those 70, there's probably like 50 different jobs out of the 70 students, so far. You know, anything you can think of, they've been in the course so far. So it's been this really, really cool cross section, different people.

Let's talk about this concept of champions. So, I don't know when this came up, when we were developing the course, but at some point the word smart building champion really got defined out and really became one of the, like the main thesis of the course, that basically our industry needs more champions and not just, not just champions, but internal champions. So internal to a building owner organization, they need a lot more people that sort of speak the language, they get it.

So let's talk about this champion concept for a minute. What are your thoughts on the smart building champion?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:25:39] Yeah, so first I think we need organizations to recognize the importance of this type of role and why it's needed. I think it was on the recent podcast with   Shen Shu where he outlined the different roles of consultants, vendors, and providers in the smart building industry.

And really the importance of having someone internal, who understands how the organization works, understands the financial decisions that are being made and has the authority, or decision-making ability to drive this program forward because it is collaboration between all those different parties.

And so how are they continuing to drive that and lead that? So really someone who understands how buildings operate. How does distinguish nuances between different technologies and solutions and how the features affect the outcomes or use cases they're looking for, and then understands the financing and operations of buildings.

They don't need to be the expert, but they need to be able to collaborate with all those specialists to be able to deliver on that smart building strategy. And so I think it's really how we bring those people internal to work with everyone else. Kind of like the glue and whether it's a single person or a team of people to, to continue to move that strategy forward.

But how would you define a smart building champion?

James Dice: [00:26:54] Yeah, I mean, the way I think about it is like, it starts with a mindset and everyone that's involved in every project or a smart building program, can embody the mindset. So that's actually the piece that we teach in the course, because not everyone in the course is obviously a part of a building owner organization.

There's a lot of vendors, service providers, et cetera. And so what we can all do as an industry is sort of embodie this mindset of a champion. There's a couple different facets to it. So there's continuous learning, right? We need to continually be understanding how things are changing and how technology is moving.

But not just learning, continuous action as well. So like we have this one time mindset, this project mindset in our industry. And so being able to just embody the fact that we're going to keep moving, we're going to keep iterating, we're going to keep evolving. Then there's collaboration. So collaborating with all the different stakeholders.

If you create a list of all the different stakeholders on a smart building project, it's a very, very, actually very long list of the number of people at affects. And so the smart building champion, the mindset is like, we're not doing this in a silo, we're collaborating and they really need to be taking the leadership role in that collaboration.

So they're kind of like the glue between all those different stakeholders, right? And then long-term thinking is another piece. So just, just like, we're not going to think about one project over here and then, you know, forget about it after that, they have this kind of holistic and long-term mindset, that I think is important.

And again, we can all have this. It's just a lot more effective when someone internal to the building owner organization is able to sort of pull the strings from the inside.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:28:30] So, how do you see the course skilling people up for that role? And is it, is it connecting them just to that community and to the right technical discussions and resources and how to have those conversations or teaching that mindset and then allowing them to dive deeper through the course?

James Dice: [00:28:49] Yeah. It's like that mindset combined with this concept of, I want people to understand like what's enough knowledge or enough, enough depth for me to sort of be dangerous. And I think Shen talked about this, is asking the right questions. And not feeling like, I think it's been sort of, enabling or empowering for people to know that they don't need to be the expert in every facet of smart buildings.

You just need to know enough about the overall process and how it all fits together to be able to ask the right questions to your experts. So basically bringing the right people in together, you know, getting butts in seats and all the different types of experts you need and then going to them and being like, I understand where you're coming from.

I want you to understand where our organization's coming from and sort of like figuring out how you can meet everyone in the middle. And so that's kind of what the course is all about, right? It's giving people that holistic viewpoint of how it all comes together. That's something we hear a lot from the students is like, you helped us figure out how it all comes together.

Right. So, it's being able to see all the different moving pieces and at the end, it all comes together. And people are like, Oh, I see, I see now. So it's like getting people to see that. And then now that you see that, you know, like what value you bring and what value the others bring in terms of sort of supplementing your lack of depth in certain areas, because if we have anything in our industry, we have a ton of people that have a ton of sort of very narrow depth. I think we've lacked that generalist that understands how it all fits together.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:30:24] So on that note, what are your hopes for the course in the next three years?

James Dice: [00:30:29] Yeah. So I think our, my sort of North star, you can weigh in on yours, my sort of North star with it is sort of shortening the learning curve and that that's on every individual project sort of like avoiding the landmines, you know, the faster each individual project happens, the faster the industry transforms. Right. But it's also in terms of each organizations. Learning curve.

So, so I think we're, we're just really beginning to learn how to, how to do that for everyone. You know, we're only two cohorts in, so we don't have this all figured out, but shortening that learning curve is sort of the vision of where we want to get to. And as the industry evolves that I think that's going to change.

Right. So, we're, we're pretty new at this point. Most organizations we've had several, you know, large building owners in this cohort where it felt like they were sort of just kind of discovering that how early they are actually on their journey. Right. And so I think if. And someone from one of those organizations comes back in three years, they're going to be at a different spot on the journey and they're going to need something else.

And so I think it's continuing to evolve with them. The course will kind of never be done. Right. So we're going to continue to be iterating on it. The other aspect, I think over the next maybe three years is there, there's a community aspect that's developing. So we mentioned that there's. I mentioned there's 70 people that have gone through the course at this point.

And we're just starting to see that sort of alumni network really start to help each other. We just had someone this week that sort of posted, you know, I need help coming up with a job description for a smart building specialist. And I think she told me she got like six or seven people reach out and say like, you know, here's an option.

Have you considered this? Here's an exact template for what we use. So those sorts of things are just beginning to kind of, you know, maybe it's a couple of snowflakes that's maybe turning into a small snow snowball and then maybe it'll continue to, to roll by the next cohort. We'll see. The third piece is I think there's this hiring thing.

So I get. I get two to three emails a week and sometimes two to three emails a day about people that are trying to fill positions in our industry. And so I know that we're in this growth mode, right. And. I think in terms of the hiring piece, I'm not sure that I can help with the hiring, but like the onboarding, the course is really, really well suited for someone who's very new or being brand new to our industry that just doesn't have that context of how it works.

And I think that. We can help with the sort of industry onboarding piece of that Robinson not going to help with someone's, you know, tailored company onboarding. That's not what it's about, but the industry onboarding there are a few companies that are kind of beginning to think about the foundation's chorus as like, you know, we're just going to outsource that to nexus.

And we'll, you know, there'll be taken care of. Right. And so that's kind of how I see it in three years. Hopefully everyone can start viewing nexus as the place where they go for their, you know, their new people onboarding.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:33:34] Awesome. So speaking of onboarding we've had a couple of companies where they've brought a team of people into the course, so that through the course they could develop their strategy, learn a framework and, and have that common base foundations fit, foundational understanding.

How would you define success for these companies or achievement from the course as, as they leave and, and move on over the next three years.

James Dice: [00:33:58] Yeah. So the main sort of framework that's sort of underpinning the entire course, right. Is this concept of a smart building strategy. And, and my opinion, my thought is that all the building owners out there obviously need a smart building strategy.

They're the ones with the buildings, right. But all the companies in the industry, whether you're a building owner or a vendor or whatever, You can also have a strategy for how you are attacking the smart buildings market. How are you are thinking about smart buildings? And so I think that how I see success for a company is that when you maybe not during the six weeks of the cohort, but as being part of the community and sending people through the course, you're, you're getting closer to having a sound strategy for how you will approach this new market that we're out, that we're all in.

That's evolving.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:34:45] And then how about for the individual students? How do you see their career paths changing? Having been part of foundations?

James Dice: [00:34:56] I can kind of speak from, from my standpoint as just thinking about my career. Right? So there's, there's been several years in my career where I'm so heads down on a project or several projects at once. Probably too many projects where I can barely even sort of rise my head up and basically say like, what's going on out there.

And that's the number one thing I've kind of heard from the other students is it's so good for people to like, figure out what's going on outside of their company. Right. And develop your network to where you always have someone, like we talked about experts and all those other areas. Always have someone to sort of call on and say, Hey, how do you think about this problem?

Or how did you solve this on your last project? So I think that that networking piece and developing your network. So not yet just in your, your small niche. So if you're an HVAC person, not just an HVAC. But in this broader technology landscape, I think developing that network is going to be really fruitful for people that are listening to this podcast.

The, the other piece is the sort of the framework for career thinking that we kind of added for cohort two. Right? So, so all of us have, all of us are coming at the smart buildings problem. From, you know, wherever we came from, right? So if you're coming at this from HVAC, you're coming at this with a real, real depth in how buildings are heated, ventilated, air conditioning, right.

And, and that depth is not the same thing as the person next to you in the course is depth. And so. What I recommend is that people with that depth sort of add the breadth. Right. And if you, if you're coming out the course with just breadth, then maybe it's a good time to start thinking about adding the depth.

And so that's kind of how we're all going to come together and solve this problem. Is that okay? Everyone sort of understands the breadth and has a place where they're, you know, uniquely qualified on the depth piece. And so, the successful student that comes out of the course kind of has this sort of renewed vision about how their career can go if they, you know, for this industry and how to attack it in that, in that sort of new light.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:37:01] Yeah. And Even for me where I'm focused on a couple of big projects, it's great hearing through the course, what other people are working on, what the challenges are, because then I might run into those challenges and have a couple months later, and I've been able to pull on those resources or understand how they approached it.

So being able to bring that back in and deliver better for the stakeholders in the projects I'm working on has been something that I've definitely seen through the course. That's

James Dice: [00:37:27] awesome. That's that's the idea.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:37:29] Yeah. Required me to think outside the box, understand what the stakeholders specific drives, where, so that's been a good, good experience.

James Dice: [00:37:38] I mean, I think that's something that you and I have both experienced here. You and I are teaching this course, but we're also like learning ourselves and the current kind of pudding. What we've been learning on projects into this framework and this common language, and that helps us get better at what we do as well.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:37:55] Exactly. So then on that note, what would you say is the biggest thing you've learned from the course and the things that you've enjoyed the most?

James Dice: [00:38:03] So I think the biggest thing I've learned as, so I have two things. The first is that. I've always heard like that. We all need to kind of like ship before we're ready.

Like, like an engineer kind of tends to overthink things and wants things to be perfect. And this is the first time in my career that I was like, truly embodied the concept of just like ship early and ship off. Right. And you've seen behind the scenes, like we've created this course and at a very kind of like, as we go way.

Because it doesn't exist out there. It's not like we can pull from one place or one or two places and pull all this together. It's very much this concept of like, Yeah, I think this is like about right. And then we ship it and we get feedback and then we move on. And so it's really starting to sort of crystallize into something that I'm proud of.

But I wouldn't say I was like extremely proud of it at the very beginning, you know? So that like, I'm proud of myself for doing it because now it exists and now it's. It's really creating an impact, but at the beginning it was very nerve wracking. The other piece is there's, there's a lot of aspects of just like the logistics of the course.

That I wouldn't say I took them for granted at the beginning, but I'm still, we're still trying to figure them out. Right. So I think one piece of that is that students sort of overestimate the time they have available. Right. So we've had a lot of students that just say, like, I thought I was going to have, you know, four to eight hours a week, but it's just not, it's not happening.

And so then they fall behind. Right. And that kind of. It, it, it, it sucks. It's not great because then they're not, you know, sort of participating and, and sort of giving feedback to the other students and that kind of thing. So I want to make a public service announcement to all the companies out there. If you have a student taking the foundations course, which we probably will have a lot of people, a lot of your employees will be taking the course.

Please give them the time to do that. It gives them the space from, from their projects. It will be worth it for you. We promise.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:40:04] Yeah. I remember. Yeah. I think from the course where we were trying to draw it out and our engineering minds were very linear. We wanted it to be step one, step two, step three. And we kept moving all the different pieces to really realize it's all interconnected and it, it. You have to be able to follow along to understand how it ties together in the end.

So when you do fall behind, it does catch up. But I think it's, I've loved seeing how it's evolved to really show that connectiveness and how each of those pieces plays an important role in an overall strategy for smart buildings.

James Dice: [00:40:40] Totally, totally. So, yeah, that's really fun to sort of unpack and sort of reflect on the foundations course so far. So thank you for, for doing that with me. So as we kind of wrap up here, I want to hear kind of, now that Dick's cube is released, we've got through cohort two.

You're about to go on vacation. What are you sort of looking forward to for the rest of the year, Rachel?

Rachel Kennedy: [00:41:01] Yeah. So I'm working on some pretty exciting projects. They're actually a year apart for the same client. So we're able to take a lot of the learnings that we're discovering and the challenges we're facing with one project and apply it to the other.

So that's been really fascinating catching up on the latest protocols there as well, where one's, backnet, one's leveraging MQTT. So continuing to learn there. What I really excited about for the industry in general is That last year was kind of the first year people were talking about indoor air quality ventilation.

My family finally knows what HVAC means and it's become the conversation, but I'm hoping this year becomes the implementation. And so people are actually putting money where. Where their mouth, so where they are, what's the phrase,

James Dice: [00:41:47] putting their money, where their mouth is

Rachel Kennedy: [00:41:50] and even where their mouth is.

And so hopefully that really, we really see that pickup in the industry. And now we're coming with these frameworks that we've built from, from the foundation to kind of have that confidence to take that first step, because I think as we start seeing organizations leap in or jump in, then, then we'll see others.

Follow suit. So kind of exciting to see that in 2021, and I hope 20, 22 is even more exciting. Awesome.

James Dice: [00:42:17] I second, all that. So thanks for coming on the show. It's been fun.

Rachel Kennedy: [00:42:20] Thank you for having me.

James Dice: [00:42:26] All right, friends. Thanks for listening to this episode of the nexus podcast for more episodes like this, and to get the weekly nexus newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry. Please subscribe@nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.