The process of starting a new job in a new industry is humbling. As a former sportswriter who also dabbled in publishing and marketing, the jump into the glass industry has been an eye-opening experience.
Not because of the difficulty of the job, mind you, but for the technical details of the glass industry. It is probably safe to say that the vast majority of the population has hardly any understanding of how glass is made and what it does, other than to let you see outside and let light in.
My eye-opening moment was during the summer conference meetings in Chicago. Industry leaders gathered to discuss updates to architectural glass-clad polycarbonate, the best practices for heat soak testing, industry collaborations and the introduction of a new standard to help school districts choose from a range of high-performance products that add additional protection to schools, among others.
As you can see, that’s a lot for us common folk to take in.
However, thanks to an array of people who graciously stopped by to help, the experience was far from overwhelming, at times it was welcoming. Take for instance the second day of meetings when the discussion turned to the Rapid Assessment Chamber (RAC), I obviously had no clue what that was.
Thankfully, John Kent stopped by during a break and gently described what RAC was. That in itself encompasses what my first foray into the world of glass was like. Collaboration and generosity.
Of course, the learning only continued as the days went by.
The conference included a couple of hands-on experiences. These include tours of UL Solutions, which is one of several companies approved to perform safety testing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE), which solves structural, architectural and materials problems in all types of structures and facilities.
The tour of UL Solutions was interesting, to say the least.
Not only did we get a brief overview of what the company does, but we also got to wear hardhats and safety glasses. Looking cool and safe in our personal protective equipment, the fine folks at UL Solutions took us around their facility and showed us the furnaces and other apparatuses where they test a variety of products, ranging from doors, roofs, windows and more.
It was fascinating to feel the heat radiating from the furnaces and see just how in-depth the testing process is.
The second stop of the tour was WJE.
This included stops at various stations where engineers tested the strength of different materials found on bridges, buildings, pipes, piers and others. We learned how WJE engineers stabilized a floor in a museum to mitigate potential damages to a Tyrannosaurus skeleton and that breaking a lite of glass with a punching bag weighed down with beads doesn’t often work, which is more of a testament to the design of the glass itself.
Overall, it was a fun and informative experience. I learned quite a bit during my short time in Chicago. Granted, I mostly gleaned that I have a lot more to learn before I can safely have a coherent conversation with an industry expert.
As with most things in life, it takes time.