Friday, Aug. 10 was Ethan Grossman’s day. The spotlight was squarely on him. What would he do with it?
He made sure to share it with friends, colleagues and the future.
I arrived at the SmithGroup office in Boston at 10 a.m., ready to speak with Grossman — pme’s 2018 Plumbing Engineer of the Year — about his design work, philosophies, career trajectory, the future of the industry and more. Before heading to the conference room for the interview, Grossman introduced me to Mark Brazell, the SmithGroup’s Plumbing Department summer intern from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. I shook the polite Brazell’s hand and expected to say goodbye at the end of my day with Grossman.
After more than 90 minutes of chatting for a full profile feature on Grossman (in this month’s issue read about his interesting life and career), we headed to lunch and then to take photos around downtown Boston. It was a “working” lunch for Grossman as he and I met with his fellow ASPE Boston Chapter members, where they discussed the details for the group’s upcoming golf outing.
I was pleasantly surprised when Grossman invited Brazell to join us both for lunch and to tag along for the photoshoot. I enjoyed getting to know a little more about Brazell and his college life (I miss those carefree days), why he’s interested in potentially joining the plumbing industry after graduation, and learning from Grossman over the summer.
“From the first day Ethan, as well as the rest of the group, were more than happy to sit down with me and discuss various aspects of the industry and teach me about the different projects I was involved in, answering any questions I had come up with,” Brazell says. “They really did a great job of walking me through projects and explaining why and how the task had to be done instead of just throwing work at me which was very beneficial to my learning.”
After lunch, we pounded the pavement for more than an hour in 85° F heat (the sweat in my dress shirt can attest to the conditions), checking out spots where Grossman had a hand in the design. At each spot as I checked the photo quality, he would pull Brazell aside and show him little details about the system and why it worked for the specific application. This photoshoot doubled as a tutoring lesson on the move and really showed Grossman’s passion for plumbing design, and maybe more importantly, his desire to teach the next generation of engineers.
“That’s part of what makes the job fun,” Grossman told me during a follow-up interview for the pme Podcast. “With plumbing engineering, a lot of us get into it initially and we scratch our heads wondering, ‘How did I end up in this field?’ Seeing Mark, he’s done a great job all summer as an intern. You can see that in him. He sees that plumbing engineering is so much more than he expected.”
Grossman didn’t have to do that at all. It would have been easy, even justified, for him to want to spend the little time we had together that Friday discussing his accomplishments. Receiving an opportunity like that, in this unglamorous industry, does not come around often. Instead, Grossman’s affable personality rose to the top by choosing to be magnanimous with his time.
If your office is lucky to have talented, dedicated interns like Brazell, make sure to take some time to set them up on the path to success. Get them out of the office to meet some new industry people. It will be beneficial to them down the line.
The old tradition is that we work hard so our kids have it better in life then we did. There is no reason why that can’t be true of our younger colleagues.