4 min read

#60: The smart buildings shortcut I wish I had

Announcing a new email series on my approach to keeping up with and making an impact in the smart buildings industry

Hey everyone,

James here from Nexus Labs. Instead of our normal Tuesday newsletter, today I want to tell you a quick story about my career.

That will help explain the changes I made 5 years ago that I credit for helping me make an impact in smart buildings industry—changes that might help others trying to find their feet as the industry blazes forward.

This is highway 285 in Colorado. As you can see, it’s a stunningly beautiful drive.

I’ve been in many traffic jams on 285—like when the infamous leaf peepers pile into the mountains from Denver trying to take selfies with perfectly colored aspen trees. Or when that mama moose and her little ones caused a big pile up.

Here’s the thing: Each time I’ve gotten stuck here, I could not have cared less.

Why? Because it’s the scenic route. If you’re on this highway, you just take in the views. You’re not trying to find shortcuts. The drive itself is all you need.

Now… this is highway 25 in Colorado.

See the difference?

When you’re on 25, you’re wondering what you did to deserve such bad luck. You’ll do anything to find a shortcut. You just want to get where you’re going… now.

About five years ago, my career in our industry was feeling much more like highway 25 than 285. I had just quit my third job in four years. When I got to my fourth gig, it quickly became clear it would be more of the same.

The same what? Well, project after project and meeting after meeting were so stuck in the status quo. Whether it was a construction project or energy retrofit or controls upgrade, our industry is very good at doing things the same old ways.

Meanwhile, news about climate change kept popping up in my feed—reminding me of why I had joined the buildings industry in the first place. But here I was, five years into my journey, not making much progress despite all my hard work.

And then there was the incessant technological progress outside of buildings. While I was hearing about some of this progress making its way into buildings, the buildings I was working in were using technology from the 80s and 90s.

Oh, and the vendors. Every week there was a new startup. Every week the incumbent vendors had new products. All of them were making grand claims that they had the answer that would change everything. It was overwhelming.

When I tried to drive change, it felt like I was making it up as I went. Inevitably, I would step on what I now call the landmines left over from our industry’s past. When they blew up, the reward for my efforts was more long hours at the office cleaning things up.

I was stuck on highway 25, falling behind, and I had to do something.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a shortcut. I had no idea what to do. So I just started doing stuff.

And because hindsight is 20/20, I can now see that some if it worked beautifully and some of it was a huge waste of time. Time I didn’t feel like I had to waste. Time our industry doesn’t have to waste.

That’s why I want to share what’s worked for me. These are the changes I made:

  • I dove into the history of our industry and why it creates dumb buildings (It’s actually fascinating and a perfect problem to spend your career on)
  • I started learning about where technology was headed, using other industries as examples
  • I looked at the buildings I knew and realized they didn’t have a plan. Worse than that, they didn’t have a strategy to inform the plan. So I created a process for building a Smart Building Strategy that could be applied to any building or portfolio.
  • I started building what I now consider my personal monopoly in smart buildings—the things no one can compete with me on

And fast forward to today… here I am working on cutting edge projects (which still have their delays… but I know some great shortcuts). I’m connected to the thought leaders in the industry, who I can call on if I get lost. As a result, I feel like I can get dropped into any smart building project or situation and provide value that moves us forward.

And while I didn’t have a shortcut, that doesn’t mean those of you who are new to smart buildings can’t find one. Here’s my advice: When you’re combining fast-moving technology with decades of history and technical debt, you need a new approach to learning and personal development.

If you want to hear my approach to keeping up with the smart buildings industry and finding my unique role, sign up for this free deep dive series kicking off on tomorrow.

You’ll also learn about how I packaged this approach into our flagship online course, Nexus Foundations. Last fall, we hosted 25 aspiring and established smart buildings leaders in Cohort #1. In the spring of 2021, we hosted 53 students and alumni for Cohort 2.

All you have to do to receive those emails is click the link below and enter your email:

Sign up

I’ll start sending you those emails tomorrow, and they will have [Nexus Foundations] in the subject line.

I’ll share with you my very best advice on how to approaching growing your impact in the smart buildings industry, including:

  • Why this moment in our industry is such a unique, “unparalleled” opportunity
  • Why on-the-job training isn’t enough for smart buildings leaders
  • The single biggest myth about smart buildings and the mistakes it causes
  • Which learning approaches to avoid and where I think everyone should start
  • My hard-learned method for building a Smart Building Strategy for any project or portfolio
  • Schedule, bonuses, and other details for the upcoming cohort

See you soon,

James Dice

Founder, Nexus Labs

P.S. Don’t forget to click here to sign up or you won’t receive the email series!