Feb. 18, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - You never know what good can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. In fact, I would venture to say that staying in your comfort zone is, well, comfortable, but that’s really no way to live.
I recently spent a week in Vaughan, Ont., attending the building code course – Legal Process for Building Officials. It turned out that many of my classmates work in municipal building and planning departments (as do I), and the rest came from fire departments.
I had gone down to the city on the Sunday night because there was considerable snow in the forecast for the Monday morning. Once I had gotten settled in my hotel room, a minor case of the jitters crept in. This was my first time away from home and away from my husband and kids (aside from repeated trips to the fire college). Needless to say, the urge to be back home in my comfort zone was pretty compelling compared to the unknown of what to expect from the week ahead in my first building-code course.
The instructor was a chief building official from a nearby municipality and I had spoken with him prior to the course so I knew there would be some people from Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services in the class. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, let’s just say that I have a certain fondness for Mississauga. I was a fire inspector there once upon a time – albeit briefly – and even though the timing wasn’t in my favour for a career at that point, the stars were definitely shining on me while I was there.
I assumed the people from Mississauga were likely new inspectors I wouldn’t know, but I found it ironic nonetheless that they’d be in my class. It wouldn’t have surprised me as much if it was a course at the fire college, but I certainly hadn’t expected to know people in a building code course.
Our instructor was staying at the same hotel, so I caught a ride with him over to the Ontario Building Officials Association office where the course was being held on the first morning. I happened to be holding the door open for our instructor to carry in his materials and I glanced up to see a familiar face from Mississauga. It was one of the inspectors from the area with whom I had worked in when I was there, and I couldn’t believe my luck. I was already feeling better about the upcoming week.
I got settled at my assigned table and watched as the rest of the class filtered in. There were three more students from Mississauga with whom I had worked in the class, and a fourth whose name seemed vaguely familiar to me. He hadn’t arrived yet and I assumed he was a new, younger inspector I hadn’t met before. Lo and behold, when he introduced himself to me, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself – he was new alright, the new division chief of fire prevention.
Needless to say, the week turned out to be a very positive experience, both personally and professionally. I met several new acquaintances, but I also met a couple of new friends. Since we were all staying at the same hotel, we had the opportunity to socialize after class. These new friends helped me come out of my shell and have a few good laughs, likely without knowing how much it meant to me.
Networking and socializing are two of the great benefits of attending courses like that. Granted, you learn a lot in class, you strengthen your knowledge base and broaden your horizons, but you can also learn a lot after class.
Inside and outside of class, it’s the people you’re with who make it all worthwhile – talking with people and learning about what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, the funny stories they share and the life lessons they’ve learned.
Great memories with new buddies, dinner out with an amazing friend/editor, a tour of a nearby fire hall with a knowledgeable captain, a couple of harmless pranks and five straight days of building code. What more could a girl want?
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. firstname.lastname@example.org @georgianbayjen