Carol Johnson has come a long way from playing in the woods of Alabama where she worked on her first plumbing job under her grandmother’s house at the young age of eight. Today, she holds the title of the youngest person, as well as the first woman, to be elected as the president of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE).
She first told me her plans to run for the role of president at the 2017 ASPE Technical Symposium. She spoke of her passion for the industry and her vision for the future of the society. More on that later. But first, an introduction to Carol Johnson, president of ASPE.
Focused and determined
Currently working as a senior project manager at Edmonds Engineering (EEI), a full service commercial and industrial engineering consulting design firm, Johnson holds a Certified Plumbing Designer (CPD) designation from ASPE, a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) designation from Green Business Certification Inc., and Certified Fire Inspector (CFI) ) and Fellow of ASPE (FASPE) designations.
She attended Walker College in Jasper, Alabama, and the University of Alabama Birmingham, where she studied mathematics and engineering.
She’s worked hard and picked up skills in every position she’s held. And all along, her drive has been her will to be respected for the value she’s brought to the position she’s held. Her goal has been to excel and bring value to the industry she serves.
“I have been a member of ASPE for 20 plus years. For 16 of those years,” Johnson said. “I used my own personal and vacation time to attend conventions and symposiums.”
Despite not having the support of former employers, Johnson pushed on and made connections, picking up pieces of knowledge along the way.
“When I was in the process of deciding to run for president of ASPE, I asked my boss how he felt about my plans. His answer was simple and to the point. He said, ‘What can I do?’”
Johnston says that was the deciding factor for her and the beginning of her committed involvement with ASPE.
Paving the way
Johnson has served in various roles for the Alabama Chapter, as well as the board liaison to the Women of ASPE (WOA) group. She’s also held an ASPE vice president of legislative position before formerly applying for the presidency this year.
“My path made me aware that our typical young member joins the society for knowledge,” Johnson said. “My path has also made me want to focus on what members need—whether it’s tools to do their job, or recognition by their employer or the society, or whether it’s fulfillment in their profession.”
That awareness is what will drive her in her new role as president of ASPE.
What the future holds
The duties of the president are defined in the ASPE bylaws in the “Procedures and Operations” chapters. But I was curious how Johnson defined the role.
“I understand my role as president as someone who is capable of understanding this complex society,” Johnson said. “And then being capable of using that understanding to make impactful progress, not just for members, but for humankind as well. I want to help ASPE evolve.”
Her vision and focus will be result-driven as she aims to work with members, the executive director, the board of directors, leaders in the community, and ASPE staff to strengthen the society.
On the table: improving communication; increasing educational opportunities; and supporting new technology. All of this is to provide current and future members a platform to share knowledge and grow from it.
“My vision is for ASPE to be an intellectual powerhouse of plumbing engineering,” Johnson said.
She adds that the members who make up the ASPE society hold the history of plumbing at every level from product manufacturing to code application, to know-how of plumbing and fire protection systems. She sees all of this as the core of ASPE and as an opportunity to strengthen the society going forward.
Johnson said, “I will work across committees to improve communication, increase educational opportunities, and support new technology for our website and forums.”
Johnston says this will strengthen and grow the existing chapters. She also wants to build a bridge between key industry associations so that they can work jointly in developing standards and code committees.
“We currently have multiple standards helping build foundations and resources. Why not combine those efforts? The main task is to organize and open doors for evolution by using the wealth of knowledge our members possess. Knowledge is our power that changes the world,” Johnson explained.
Changes, big and small
“My first task on the agenda is to effectively communicate and organize,” Johnsons said.
She will work with the ASPE staff and executive director to develop a new website with improved communication tools to reach members and provide them with what they need and want.
Johnson also wants to dedicate a lot of her focus to the Education, Technical and Research, and Legislative, Long Range Planning, Past Presidents, and Fellows Program committees. As president, she will appoint the committee chairs and cochairs, but she also plans on restructuring the committees so that they can work more efficiently, and in relation to each other, ultimately helping to increase membership.
“Committees are a key component,” Johnson said. “They provide structure for our programs, publications, code involvement, design standards, education, technical, and long-range planning. The goal is to collaborate with our talented volunteers to have strategic goals and effectively get results.”
Positioning ASPE as an intellectual powerhouse means recognizing its members look for the society to provide engineering resources, product information, code knowledge, and networking opportunities. That’s not going to change with Carol Johnson. It’s going to improve because she’s keenly aware that ASPE will grow when it provides members and the industry more knowledge through better communication.
Leading through action
“My leadership style is simple,” Johnson said. “I am going to respect everyone, and I will listen to understand.”
Her hope is to work with everyone involved with ASPE to make good decisions for ASPE. She added, “This current board is in a unique position; a position of opportunity. Our foundation is set, and we are building stronger each year.”
Johnson is committed to honor the past, and to bridge a strong future for ASPE. To the members, Johnson said, “It is time to be excited for our future. It is time to volunteer. We have a great opportunity to move ASPE forward!”