July 6, 2021
HVAC Controls Lead Inspires Ninth Graders’ Career Dreams
Duane “DJ” Brown doesn’t have much time for contemplating his career during a typical workday. As an HVAC controls lead for Trane, a brand of Trane Technologies, he’s usually high up on the rooftop of a building, peering at the insides of a massive piece of commercial air conditioning equipment that he’s about to service.
“I like what I do,” he says. “This little self-reflection has inspired me.”
He’s referring to his opportunity to speak about his career journey to nearly 100 ninth graders at Hoover High School in Glendale, California. He didn’t expect that reflecting on his own career would not only motivate the students, but also give him such a boost.
“I’m still smiling ear to ear from this whole event,” DJ said. “I appreciated the opportunity to speak, and I really hope I could inspire just one of the kids.”
The students are part of the school’s Sustainable Academy of Building and Engineering (SABE) program, which works closely with SEI. SEI is an environmental nonprofit that develops sustainability leadership pathways for young students, from elementary school through early career.
It’s also a Trane Technologies Foundation community partner and part of our Sustainable Futures corporate citizenship strategy, which aims to expand underrepresented students’ access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, support healthy classrooms, and promote skill building for green careers. That’s where DJ comes in.
From shop guy to controls lead
DJ began his Trane career 17 years ago in an entry-level position – “the shop guy,” he says. His father worked for Trane and encouraged his mechanically inclined son, who was heading down a computer science path, to consider the “good option” of a Trane career. Now DJ is the controls lead – the tech support dispatched out to help other service technicians diagnose and fix issues.
He credits a couple mentors along the way for “getting me focused on my opportunities.” And his on-the-job peers supported DJ “when I didn’t know anything.” Often after their own workdays were done, they drove to his job sites to help him.
Pay it forward
Now he’s reaching back to uplift young students. “One asked me what advice I’d give my younger self, coming into this career,” he says. “I thought it was a really cool question. My answer was to work hard, pay your dues and things will pan out.”
“I felt so proud to watch DJ inspire future generations,” said Louise Rasmussen, regional senior Human Resources business partner at Trane Technologies. “He soared.”
In addition to the live online meeting with DJ, the Hoover High School students got electrical circuit kits, as part of SEI and SABE’s Innovations in Green Technology curriculum. Through Sustainable Futures, Trane Technologies will continue to collaborate with SEI on more green and STEM career education, job skills training and more.
“I saw how captivated the kids were while DJ presented,” said Hugo Adan, area service manager for Trane. “I knew he was going to be a big hit. I’m sure the kids are thinking about their futures!
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