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Chicago’s “YEP” Grows With the Industry

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“It’s the perspectives, finding the people who are doing the same things you do, same struggles you have, and connecting.”

Brock Klein, a 2016 tED magazine “30 Under 35” award winner and Regional Sales Manager for Roselle, Illinois based Electri-Flex said that’s one of the main reasons he is a part of the Young Electrical Professionals. Klein recently attended YEP’s panel discussion at  Chicago’s Taste 222 restaurant.

Attendees gather for a happy hour before the panel discussion at the Chicago Young Electrical Professionals’ event at Taste 222 restaurant.

About 100 people from across the Chicago area attended the event, which featured a happy hour and a question and answer panel discussion that included a manufacturer, a manufacturer’s rep, an engineer, a contractor, and David Rosenstein, President and CEO of Connexion.

The panel discussed a variety of topics during the hour-long conversation, from how each member started in the industry, to what keeps them engaged, the importance of their professional relationships, and strategies for future leaders when they take on a more essential role. Panelists said they would like to have more direct conversations instead of emails and text messages, re-enforced the need for strong relationships during extended construction projects, and why culture is so important in their workplace.

Panelists at the recent Young Electrical Professional event in Chicago included David Rosenstein (far right), President and CEO at Connexion.

The Young Electrical Professionals, or YEP, meets at least four times a year. The group splits its meetings between site surveys at Chicago construction projects, panel discussions, social events, and charity events. Earlier this year, YEP gathered at a local food pantry to help pack meals for needy families.

Klein told tED magazine the first event had only 5 attendees. At just this one panel-discussion event, Electri-Flex sent five of its employees.

Brian Rooney, a 2017 tED magazine “30 Under 35” award winner and Vice-President of Callas-Kingsley Electrical Sales, said he started the group with a supply chain partner as simply as possible. They emailed everyone in their Outlook database, asked a local bar to set up a drink special, and hoped people would come. “The brain trust was we want everyone included, competitors and customers alike,” Rooney said during the event. He added that the initial concern that competitors would meet some of the brightest people in the supply chain were also put to rest. And by the time Rooney had scheduled his third meet-up, the Electric Association of Chicago had taken notice, and put the information on its website. Now, YEP works as part of the Electric Association.

Members of Chicago’s Young Electrical Professionals listen to the panel discussion at Taste 222.

Rooney added that creating events for people to attend, like the recent panel discussion, is not as hard as it might seem. “We have a steering committee of six or seven, and they work in the industry and we got together for a one-hour meeting, we brainstormed venues and talked about who would be a good panel member,” Rooney told tED magazine.

“We’re building a group that gets together consistently and we can collaborate and have some fun as well,” Klein mentioned. “What other generations did years ago, this is how we are growing in our industry. We are trying to interact and network. These are the people we are growing with.”

Mollie Sholl, a design-build sales rep with Connexion, is also a board member for YEP. “I always thought it was important to connect with other people in the industry, not necessarily work-related. The panel discussions are really, really great.  It’s nice to hear from CEOs and learn from them,” she said. Sholl added one important part of the group is not making sure it turns a profit. “Every time we are thinking about planning an event we are not trying to make any money, just host events and break even. We are always trying to find a way to cover the costs of these events and make them available to all employees.”

Rooney said if you want to be a part of the Chicago YEP group, you can contact Ali Novinger at the Electric Association of Chicago and ask for information. Meanwhile, NAED is also trying to form similar groups in cities across the country. You can contact NAED’s Member Engagement Team if you would like to do this in your area.

“In general, what we are going to find is the same people are going to continue to come, and if you are not surrounding yourself with those people, you are doing it wrong,” Rooney said. “Even if it is a group of 5, you have to start somewhere.”

 

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Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

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