Find a successful professional and there’s a good chance they had a great mentor. For Blair Minyard, the new vice president of education on the ASPE Board of Directors, that person is new ASPE President Carol Johnson.
Minyard initially joined ASPE at the encouragement of Johnson, the Alabama chapter president at the time.
“I had been working in the industry less than a year,” she says. “I met one other female in the chapter who took me under her wing. Ironically, Carol is the ASPE president for 2018-2020. I don’t think I could have asked for a better mentor, friend and role model within the industry. Since then, I would have to say I have been hooked. I have worked continuously on the chapter level in varying chapter positions, and I’m now involved with the society level.”
Alongside Johnson and Brianne Hall, ASPE’s vice president of legislative, Minyard joins a strong representation of women in ASPE leadership. “It is refreshing to see women in prominent roles and breaking into a male-dominated profession,” she says. “However, I like and work well with the men on the board and in my company. I believe our performances should be strictly based on our ability, not our gender.”
Minyard has made it a point to pass along the encouragement and guidance that was such a boost in her young career to others following in her footsteps. Before being elected to the ASPE Board of Directors in September, she served as the ASPE Young Professionals Liaison to the board. That experience taught her that ASPE’s members are hungry to learn, she says. In a profession that is slowly aging out, ASPE’s young members are in need of gaining the “experience knowledge” at a much faster pace.
The liaison role also enhanced her interest and knowledge of the inner workings of ASPE. She points toward two specific items of accomplishment. First, she worked to have a successful leadership forum at the ASPE Technical Symposium in 2017 in Montreal; and second, she created AYP region liaisons to mimic the structure of the Society. This allowed chapters within the region to help establish events and communication in support of those events.
Late last year, with transitions among the board and the education VP position left vacant by an incumbent, moving up to VP of education felt like a natural fit, she says.
“My array of diversification from school, design work and now in the construction field, I have been able to see many aspects involved with our membership,” she says. “I have always been a big proponent of education. I have taught independent classes as well as served as an adjunct professor at both Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama and The University of Alabama at Birmingham. So the vice president of education just seems to be a perfect fit for me.”
During her term as education VP, Minyard has three goals right of the bat. First, she says members need more updated and frequent educational items offered by ASPE. Second, she intends to update the organization’s speakers bureau to help regional chapters find speakers. Third, she wants to continue the great technical presentations at the ASPE Technical Symposium in Pittsburgh later this year and at the ASPE Convention & Expo in New Orleans in 2020.
Beyond her direct responsibilities as education VP, Minyard identifies the quality of drinking water and how it impacts people’s safety as one of the biggest concerns of the industry as a whole.
“As the focus on water conservation and quality are made more publicly aware, it is our duty in the industry to develop the path moving forward,” she says.
First career steps and what’s next
After college, Minyard remembers having “no clue” about plumbing design and its importance. The ASPE membership’s collective knowledge changed that.
“The people I have met along the way have truly taught me more than I could have ever imagined,” she says. “Books don’t give you all the information, all the time.
“If you asked me five years ago if I would be where I am, I probably would have been in sheer shock. I currently work for an international construction company [BL Harbert International in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama]. It is a far stretch from working for a 50-individual design company with three plumbing designers only 10 years ago. Honestly in five years, I can’t even imagine where my career will take me. But I promise you one thing, I will continue to focus on education and continuously developing my skill sets.”
She has simple advice for someone considering joining the plumbing engineer industry, “Go for it!”
“Plumbing engineering is a wide-open field with many opportunities for anyone willing to study, work hard and care about what they do,” she adds. “Plumbing engineering is not only necessary for every building, big or small, but it is rewarding to know you can help design plumbing that works well and makes life for the occupants more convenient.”