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Creating a Culture of Innovation and Inclusion in Sustainable and Smart Building Automation Industry

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In honor of International Women's Day, we are highlighting some of the shining stars in the Smart Buildings Industry who we get the pleasure of working and partnering with. International Women's Day was created to help drive gender equality and spread awareness of the issues and gaps we see across all industries. For the Smart Buildings industry, one of the biggest challenges we face is representation.

That said, some brilliant women have taken the reigns in their given roles and are helping to break down those barriers. I got a chance to interview some of those women to ask them about this year's IWD theme: Inspire Inclusion. 

Sylvia Zoffmann, Siemens

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Sylvia is the Head of R&D Automation Portfolio for Siemens and an Advisory Board Member for Edge Building Management for J2 Innovations. 

Do you think having diverse and inclusive teams leads to a better work environment? 

"Having diverse teams is key to our success. Only a diverse group can bring in all the different perspectives, ultimately leading to better decisions and better solutions for our customers."

How important is it to encourage the younger generation to choose STEM education or a career path in science, technology, or engineering? 

"When I joined the team 2 years ago I was convinced that it would never have been a better point of time to work in building automation. With all the challenges coming up on sustainability – and approximately 40% of all energy consumed in buildings – this is something that has to be addressed quickly. And with all the new technologies we can leverage we have the unique opportunity to make our buildings more sustainable and to shape a better future for us and the next generations."

What unique experiences and insights have driven innovation and fostered inclusion in the building automation industry?

"Understanding new technologies like AI is key to applying them in solutions for our customers, and making our own work more efficient. This is why we need people with a STEM education who pursue a career in technology, science, or engineering. Many jobs will be automated in the future, access to any kind of knowledge is easy, but brain work cannot be automated."

 

Turchian Omer, Innon Energy

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Turchian is the co-founder of Innon Energy, one of our newest OEM partners! When I reached out to her to do the interview, she thanked me for highlighting women in the industry as it is "so important we have ladies coming at the forefront of the industry."

What unique perspectives do you bring to the table that contribute to driving innovation and inclusion in your company?

"Because I am not from the industry and come from a software and IT background, I got the opportunity to challenge everything. I looked at the software and media industries where I used to work and came with a new perspective on the service our clients need. I also looked at ways people learn and adapt models we see in B2C or other industries into ours. For every single problem our clients have, I tried to think outside the box and come up with a solution that was not necessarily what the industry was doing. But it worked better for the client and ultimately helped them as I think this is our mission as a company."

Do you think having diverse and inclusive teams leads to a better work environment?

"Absolutely 100%. Diversity in terms of culture, race, and background is our strength as a company. We are so different from one another yet this makes us stronger. For example, when we work on a new product, everyone brings a different point of view to the table and we always learn more from one another. Many of our technical team were BMS engineers, and taking their point of view when it comes to creating training for our clients or resources has been invaluable."

How did you join the BA industry? What made you choose this path?

"I joined the BA industry thanks to my husband, who I founded Innon with in 2008. It was not a choice but a necessity at the time as we wanted to create something different. I learned a lot from his experience and passion for the industry. I don't have any regrets and 15 years later I am enjoying the speed at which the industry is growing. I also love to be able to work with the team to bring new technologies to our clients. It opens up possibilities for them to have an easier and better way a better."

Can you share any personal stories that provide a good example of what is being implemented regarding inclusion in our industry?

"We try to promote diversity and inclusiveness and a blame free culture where mistakes are rewarded and not punished, because how else can we learn? In terms of what is implemented in our industry, it is challenging to say. I think the industry needs a proper certification path, and it also needs to be more inviting to the new generation. We often see new apprentices on site from day one with very little training, and we as a company need to step up and help them as much as possible."

Louise Jacobs, Innon Energy

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Louise Jacobs is the Marketing Director at Innon Energy. Before entering the Building Automation industry, she spent 13 years in the B2B events industry. When the pandemic hit, like many others at the time, she was in a position where she needed to take the framework of marketing skills and experience she had built and be ready to pivot into a new industry. She has now been in the industry for four years and really enjoys the ever changing landscape of seeing new products and technology advancements that open new doors and create possibilities. 

What unique perspectives do you bring to the table that contribute to driving innovation and inclusion in your company?

"I’m a self-confessed Marketing geek, so I have an active folder full of screenshots of adverts and creatives that catch the eye, plus an ever-growing list of bookmarked links for technologies to loop back on, to assess how we could use this to help our clients, so that is one way that I drive innovation. I am also fortunate to be part of a company where innovation is part of the company name, so there is always the space and encouragement to bring new ideas and concepts to the table which is important particularly when you are serving a “traditional” industry."

Do you think having diverse and inclusive teams leads to a better work environment?

"I think diversity and inclusivity are important to the work environment and makes for a better, more positive workplace. While Innon Energy is a small company of 13, we have a diverse group of colleagues (30% of which are female) and with different nationalities, backgrounds and work experiences in the mix there are different perspectives brought to the table that stop us from creating an echo chamber where we would otherwise build in our own image rather than one that suits our client base."

How important is it to encourage the younger generation to choose STEM education or a career path in science, technology or engineering?

"As someone raising two primary school-aged children, it’s important to provide them with the opportunity to experience STEM, whether this is computer coding clubs or YouTube videos of people making elephant toothpaste. But it's equally important to take note of what they show interest in so they can try different things (all within budget and reason) and see what they develop a skill and a passion for."   

 

Reshmi Rajan, Blackstone Energy Services

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Reshmi Rajan is a Product Coordinator for Blackstone Energy Services, one of our OEM partners. Reshmi is an electronics and instrumentation engineering undergrad who has navigated an 8-year career in building management, transitioning from roles like Systems Design Engineer and Controls lead to EaaS product development and solutions. She is motivated by the impending global energy transition, and has focused her expertise towards shaping the future of the energy and sustainability domain.

What unique perspectives do you bring to the table that contribute to driving innovation and inclusion in your company? 

With a blend of technical and business skills in engineering and sustainability, my prime focus is on decarbonizing built spaces. At Blackstone, I leverage this expertise to offer clients a holistic perspective. This is driven by a personal commitment to a sustainable future, rooted in first-hand experiences of the vagaries of climate change in the Global South.

How important is it to encourage the younger generation to choose STEM education or a career path in science, technology or engineering? 

Encouraging the younger generation to pursue STEM education and careers is crucial for fostering innovation, driving technological advancements, and solving complex global challenges. By promoting STEM fields, we empower individuals to contribute to society's progress, enhance economic growth, and address pressing issues such as climate change, healthcare, and sustainable development.

Can you provide a good example of what is being implemented regarding inclusion in our industry?

"An increase in female engineers and managers occupying decision-making roles in a traditionally male-dominated BA industry is a signal for a promising future."

Laura Murgueitio, Blackstone Energy Services

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Laura Murgueitio is the Marketing Manager at Blackstone Energy Services. With a background in business marketing and an awareness of the mass consumption culture we live in, she jumped at the opportunity to use her communication and marketing skills to promote sustainability solutions and advocate for a better future and Earth. At Blackstone Energy, she gets to apply her knowledge to advocate for zero carbon emissions and better practices in the energy industry.

Do you think having diverse and inclusive teams leads to a better work environment?

"Yes, I believe diversity and inclusion take teamwork to another level because they enable the interchange and sharing of knowledge, different perspectives, and experiences that complement each other for a better work environment."

What unique experiences and insights have driven innovation and fostered inclusion in the building automation industry?

"The marketing department, along with the DEI+B committee in Blackstone, is committed to advocating for inclusion across all departments. We ensure that everyone feels heard, understood, and recognized when deserving."

A culture of innovation and inclusion - can you share any personal stories as a good example of what is being implemented in our industry?

"For Blackstone, we have amazing women involved in engineering, project management, and communications who have been pillars to our commitment to deliver better results and help our clients meet their sustainability ambitions."

 

Catherine Walker, BCIA

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Catherine is the Executive Officer of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA). I had the pleasure of meeting her when we were finalists for two BCIA awards last year. 

What unique perspectives do you bring to the table that contribute to driving innovation and inclusion in your company? 

"The Building Controls Industry Association is a trade association representing over 170 member companies across the UK. We are powered by volunteers so innovation and inclusion are key. It is only through the involvement of volunteers that allows us to progress with new projects and in identifying challenges and opportunities. So, I tend to work on a co-creation model to bring in different views and expertise. I also look at how we can deliver things differently, given time is precious for volunteers, its crucial for us to consider the end-goal and then openly discuss the routes to getting there. I’ve also recently launched a community platform for members so that we can harness engagement and involvement and enable peer-to-peer innovations and collaboration."

Do you think having diverse and inclusive teams leads to a better work environment? 

"Absolutely! Diversity brings a different range of approaches, views, expertise and adds so much to a team dynamic with a collaborative, supportive and open ethos ensuring that every person can bring their specific expertise and personality to the virtual table."

How did you join the BA industry? What made you choose this path?

"My background is in business support, policy, and sector development, so it was the Association Executive Officer role that initially caught my attention. I love working with member companies. Since then, I have managed to build a basic understanding of the industry and am continuing on my learning journey so I can fully understand its dynamics so that, as an Association, we are leading from the front for our members."

How important is it to encourage the younger generation to choose STEM education or a career path in science, technology, or engineering? 

"Massively, but also explaining the different roles that sit with STEM is important. Whilst children hear STEM it might not excite them, but if we can inspire young people to be curious about different industries and careers they hopefully will grasp the opportunity. We know in the BA sector there is a talent shortage but it’s possibly not an industry that many young people would think of automatically. So we have to engage them and show what the industry is all about, where it can take them and the vast range of opportunities open to them." 

 

Thank you all for taking the time to contribute to this blog and share your personal experiences working in the building automation industry. Working with such talented females and driving discussions together is a pleasure. Happy International Women's Day!

Joanna Benbow

Joanna is a Chartered Marketer passionate about sustainability and well-being. She is a highly qualified professional with a double Master's Degree in Global Business Management and Marketing. She joined J2 Innovations in 2022 with extensive experience working with startups, small businesses, and corporate environments. Alongside the business focus on growth, strategy, and financial stability, her passion leads her to work with businesses that make a positive impact locally and environmentally. She is also involved in promoting sustainability & green initiatives at a local level with her Trees For Good Causes non-profit.

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