Why We Boldly Go: Inspiring Career Dreams for the Next Generation
January 17, 2022
Duane Brown is thriving in a STEM career, while also inspiring students in his community to consider STEM and green careers too.
3 min read
At Trane Technologies, we enjoy meaningful work that helps improve the planet, for everyone. We extend our positive impact by uplifting others and inspiring opportunities to grow in green and STEM careers.
Duane “DJ” Brown doesn’t have much time for contemplating his career during a typical workday. As an HVAC controls lead for Trane Technologies’ Commercial business, 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 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 and promote skill building for green careers. That’s where DJ comes in.
One [student] asked me what advice I’d give my younger self, coming into this career. I thought it was a really cool question. My answer was to work hard, pay your dues and things will pan out.
DJ began his Trane Technologies career 17 years ago in an entry-level position – “the shop guy,” he says. His father worked for the company and encouraged his mechanically inclined son, who was heading down a computer science path, to consider the “good option” of a career with Trane. Now DJ is the controls lead – the tech support dispatched 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.
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 additional 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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