Aug 9, 2021
This Episode is sponsored by Wachter.
Welcome to episode 34 of Fire Code Tech! On this episode we are having our first ever second appearance of a guest with Chris Campbell. This episode is focuses on the FPE exam and all the tip’s tricks and hacks for passing the test. This episode is packed full of great study habits and resources for the FPE exam. Also, we break into Chris’ new consulting practice and how he made the transition in 2021.
Gives a breakdown of some of the changes and development of your last year?
What does a good study habit for the FPE exam look like?
Will you give a breakdown of what the PE road map video series looks like?
Would you speak about the differences between computer-based testing and paper based exams?
What are your thoughts for the future and what you have planned for the PE prep offerings?
What is a piece of advice you would give someone on passing the FP PE exam?
Would you speak about your consulting practice and how it has been getting started?
What do you see as trends in the industry as a professional?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Welcome to episode 34 of fire code tech. This episode is sponsored by wa check in later on in the show, and we will be thinking and talking about our sponsors and the opportunities with wa on this episode, we have. Chris Campbell. In this episode with Chris, we're talking about how to pass the fire protection engineering exam.
We'll be discussing hot topics. Like what does an effective study habit look like for passing the test? Also we'll break into Chris's new foray into having his own consulting practice and what it looks like to be an entrepreneur in fire protect. If you're interested in tips and tricks for passing professional exams and talking about everything involved with the test and what you need to do to make sure you pass.
This is the episode for you had a great time talking with Chris about not only his new ventures in the FPE prep space in consulting, but he also has some great tips for professional development. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media. Oh. And if you could give us a five star review on apple podcast, that would be a big help.
Well, hello, Chris. Welcome back to this show. Our first repeat guest ever on fire code tech. How's it going today? I guess I'm doing well. Thank you for having me again. It's uh, it's great to be here and looking forward to our conversation. Yeah. I've been, uh, excited to talk to you. I've gotten a bunch of, um, professionals, you know, reaching out on LinkedIn and other social media about the, the FPE exam.
And, um, I know you've had a, a lot of big changes in your last year, so yeah. Excited to talk to you about, um, all you've been working on, but, uh, yeah, I just like wanted to get started with, you know, um, you telling the listeners like a little bit about all the, the big changes in the cool stuff that you've been working on over the last year.
Just kind of like to kick it off. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and maybe we can just start in the, uh, the PE exam world. So, uh, last year, um, put out a product called the PE roadmap, which was really a, a study guide and study schedule that kind of broke down all the necessary topics on the fire protection P exam, and, uh, gave people a real week by week study schedule, schedule of, you know, review these things this week and do these practice problems, et cetera.
And if you get through the whole thing, you'll be in a really good spot for the exam. Uh, did that in, in collaboration with, uh, with Joe Meyer and, uh, he he's, Joe's got a number of different exam prep materials. He's got a prep book, as well as a, uh, a series of questions that you can subscribe to that, um, you know, really mimic the PE exam style questions.
So I did that last year. Um, and then sometime over the winter, uh, in talking with Joe, uh, we, we kind of decided that it made a lot of sense for that the PE roadmap, so that study schedule and the week by week guide. Uh, would make a lot of sense to put into the, uh, the MyFi prep book. So, uh, we came to an arrangement and, and starting this year in 2021, uh, that entire PE roadmap document.
So the full study schedule is now included in the MyFi prep book. So, um, anyone who has that for this year 2021, uh, can make use of that in the front of Joe's book there. And then, uh, I wanted to continue to, to grow my offering for the PE exam prep market. So, um, uh, this year have released a new product called the video roadmap, which, uh, you know, just kind of building on that roadmap name, but it's a, it's actually a completely different product.
So, uh, the video roadmap series is, uh, recorded videos of me going through, uh, 200 PE exam practice problems that Joe Meyer puts out and, uh, giving the full, uh, solution to those problems step by step. So, uh, what I do is I, um, I've got a, a one video camera on me and then I've got another downward facing camera, uh, on a pen and paper, and then I'm also sharing my screen and I've got this kind of four screen view going.
And, uh, just go through each of these practice problems, step by step and explain out loud how I do it. What are all the resources that I use to solve the problem? Uh, I actually show my work on the paper. So writing out all the equations, you know, talking it out loud. So, um, We're halfway through that. So, uh, this coming week will be week 10 of the 20 week series.
It's 10 questions a week for 20 weeks. And yeah, that's been really good. I've gotten a lot of good feedback on that so far. And a lot of people seem to really appreciate and enjoy, uh, you know, being able to watch me go through these problems step by step and, and kind of talk through my thought process.
So, uh, yeah, hopefully that is a, uh, a really good benefit to people who are studying for the exam this year. Man. That's awesome. I, that sounds like, uh, you know, people always ask for advice from me, you know, about taking the FPE exam and. You know, first and foremost, I always just tell 'em to do as many practice problems as they can.
And, you know, something that I believe that you've touched on with this new, like, um, kind of like PE roadmap video series is like how to show people the, how to do the most important thing to pass the exam, which is how to do the problems. Um, so I think that's like the, the biggest struggle. Um, you've touched on a couple of the huge struggles is how do I get started?
How do I know if I'm doing well? And then, you know, uh, how to do these problems is difficult. And there's really not very many options out there. I mean, there's more now than there's ever been, but I don't feel like there are very many, uh, in the space that are really doing this kind of thing. So I think you've touched on some big pain points for, um, the FPE, like, uh, prep space and people trying to get started and get studying.
Yeah, absolutely. And, and I would definitely agree. Uh, just simply doing practice problems is a really important part of your exam prep. Um, you know, it, it's a, it's a unique environment where you've got a long list of problems and on average you have six minutes to complete the problem. So you really need to do a lot of practice problems to simulate that exam environment, where you have to quickly read the problem, determine what resources do you need to look for, or look through, uh, whether it's the NCS manual that's provided, or maybe it's one of the, uh, reference code or standards, and then, uh, find the correct, uh, resource or the correct equation and then actually solve it.
So. You know, in the work environment, we typically do not operate on, you know, six minute, uh, time limits per question. You know, if, if a client asks me a question, it's, you know, , um, they, they appreciate a, uh, prompt response, but usually it's not expected to be in six minutes. So, yeah. Um, I think it's important to just get a lot of practice time, like you said, just doing exam style problems.
So you're, you're comfortable doing that when it comes to exam day. Yeah. So I wanna, you know, break in more of this, like topic of the FPE exam and just different ideas around it. But one thing I wanted to ask you is like, um, and maybe this is inherent to the roadmap, but, uh, like what is. What does a good study habit for that FP exam look like?
Like, you know, um, yeah, I have, I have had people ask me and I have my own opinion on this subject, but, um, I'm sure you have, uh, well refined ideas about this by now after, uh, two years almost in the books in this space. Yeah, it's a good question. Uh, I think, you know, starting off, uh, your study, um, period, so, you know, hopefully, uh, that's it's well in advance of the exam.
Um, the materials that I put out as well as Joe Meyer's materials, um, and I think also the SFP review course, all of those start, uh, early June. So that's uh, about 20 weeks in advance of the actual exam day in October. Um, it doesn't mean you have to start that early, but I think it, it is advantageous to, to get an early start if you can.
But, um, from the beginning would be establishing a good study schedule. And, you know, that was actually the motivation behind the original P roadmap that I did last year was, uh, a lot of people would just kind of go into their exam preparation blindly and, you know, maybe they're just doing a lot of practice problems, which is good, but, uh, at the same time, um, I think there's a, a benefit to having a, a system in place so that, you know, you're covering all of your bases in terms of the, uh, potential content that's on the exam.
So, you know what I, I think that could look like for. Anyone who is, is planning to take the exam is, is reviewing the exam specification that NCS puts out, which goes over all the major topics that's on the exam. And it also gives you an approximate breakdown of the waiting of those topics, right? So a, a very common topic such as, you know, fire suppression systems, you're typically gonna have more questions on, uh, fire suppression systems than you would on let's say explosion protection, which is just a, it's a less weighted topic.
So looking through the exam specification, uh, and then evaluating where you stand with all those particular subjects. So, you know, for me, I do a lot of, uh, life safety. It means egress type consulting. So I feel pretty comfortable, uh, answering questions on that topic. Whereas I don't do a lot of, uh, explosion venting for example, in my day to day.
So I would probably need to spend a little more time studying, uh, topics like that. So going through looking at the exam specification, uh, identifying where you stand on it and then setting up a schedule, uh, based on that. And, uh, you know, if a anyone can obviously do that on their own, um, that's what I did in the P roadmap.
And, you know, there's, there's a few different ways to do that. I I've published a, a 20 week study schedule. I also have a condensed study schedule in the roadmap that's eight weeks. Uh, so a more abbreviated. Uh, schedule, but really setting that up for yourself, obviously tailoring it to your, uh, specific situation for, you know, what your prior knowledge is and your experience level.
And then also making it, uh, doable for your schedule. You know, most people are gonna take a vacation at some point during the summer. Uh, I would not advocate, you know, studying for 20 weeks straight and, and taking zero breaks. Uh, I don't, I don't think that's sustainable for most people when you're likely to, uh, probably get off track.
So building in some, some breaks building in time to review, uh, giving yourself a little flexibility, but, you know, that would be the first thing overall is, is setting up a study schedule. And then the second piece would simply just be executing on that. Um, you know, it's, you could have, you could spend a, a ton of time putting together a great schedule, but if you don't actually do it, doesn't do you a lot of good.
So, um, setting up the schedule, making it something that you think is doable for your, your schedule and your, you know, current lifestyle. and then just doing it every week when I took the PE exam, uh, it was before it was a computer based exam. So it was, you know, a pen and paper, uh, exam. And, uh, the way that I studied was I, uh, set aside a chunk of time, uh, typically on Saturday mornings.
And, um, I knew I was gonna hit probably a three to four hour block of studying every Saturday morning. So I would just prepare for that each week I knew which topic I was gonna be doing. And during that morning block of time, would. Cover that topic do as many practice problems on that topic as I could.
And just make sure I understood, um, you know, what they could be asking related to that given topic during the week, I had typically two evenings set aside to like a Tuesday and a Thursday evening where I would try to get in a two hour block of studying as well. And, um, You know, continue on with additional practice problems and additional review.
So that was the, the schedule that worked for me. I was able to stick to that, but I, I think you get the picture of, you know, set up a, a schedule and a routine that works for you. And then one that you can actually stick to and execute on week after week. I think if you do that, most folks are gonna be in a good position to pass the exam.
Wow. A lot of great takeaways in that last little chunk, you know, I think so many people get, um, stuck in analysis paralysis about like how much content there is to cover and how am I gonna get through it and, um, evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and then setting up a plan to study and maybe hit those, uh, topics where you're not as strong in, um, you know, first and maybe, uh, repeat them is a great tip.
And so I think there's a lot of, uh, great, um, nuggets of wisdom in that last little bit of. Exposition about, you know, what a study habit looks like. Some people might not know. I, I honestly didn't really figure out how to study well until I started taking these professional, um, exams. So, I mean, I made it all the way through college without like having to be that detailed or analytical about the, the test subject or, you know, um, time management.
So I think that's great. Yeah, absolutely. On the topic of the course. Uh, yeah. Would you speak a little bit more about, I mean, you gave a great, I can kind of picture it in my head, the, the top down, like how you're working and the PE roadmap and how that couples together, but could you break down a little bit more about like what's involved with the course, you know, if people are, who are starting to study now or interested and want to get involved now, like, can they still do that?
Or like, you know, just go over a little bit more. The course and, and what's entailed and like, uh, what you're offering, uh, with these videos. Sure. Um, yeah, so people can definitely still, uh, register, um, you know, we're still over 10 weeks out from the exam. So, uh, you know, I I'm sure there are people that still have not yet registered.
So the courses definitely available, um, the, the roadmap video series is it goes hand in hand with, uh, Joe Meyer's, uh, prep series, which is that, um, 20 weeks of 10 questions a week of these exam style problems. So. Uh, Joe was the one that produces those questions. And then folks who subscribe to my course are able to, uh, watch me go through the solutions to all 200 of those problems.
So, um, I publish those videos weekly to, to coincide with, uh, the, the Myer fire prep series schedule. Um, so if you subscribe now, uh, weeks one through nine are available and then, you know, starting in week 10 and then each subsequent week, I release those on a weekly basis. Um, so it's meant to go hand in hand with, uh, with Joe's prep series, but the, uh, I, I think the real advantage of the, the videos is that, um, to my knowledge, there is not any other PE resource that gives you.
Live recorded solutions like that. There certainly are, uh, resources that give you an answer key such as the NCS practice exam. Uh, you can, anyone can purchase that on the NCS website. And that comes with an answer key in the back of the book. Um, and for many problems that is sufficient, like it's pretty readily obvious what they're describing in the written answer key, but almost everyone that I've met who's who's, you know, studied for the PE exam has had many practice problems where the answer key's really not enough.
They don't understand why a certain assumption was made or maybe why this equation was used. Not this one, something like that. Um, or they just don't understand a certain step within the calculation. Uh, My video series aims to bridge that gap of, you know, I am recording myself, reading the problem. I'm looking through the various reference materials, whether it's the NCS reference guide or one of the NFPA codes or standards.
Um, and I'm actually recording myself, you know, flipping through the document and recording myself, trying to find the right equation, you know, um, you know, you recently took the exam, so you, you, you can probably speak to this, but it's it, it's not always readily apparent what is the right equation to you?
So sometimes, you know, you spend a, a couple minutes just looking through, trying to find the right equation. So I'm recording myself, doing that whole process and I'm, I'm narrating it all along the way. So describing what I'm thinking as, okay, this equation looks like it might be the right one, but we don't actually know this input.
So we need to look for something else, you know, that sort of thing. Uh, and then also going from there to the actual calculation steps. So, uh, like I mentioned before, I have this downward facing camera and I'm actually writing out every step of the equation by hand. Um, and that's all recorded on the, on the video.
So you can see me writing out the calculation steps, checking my units. I actually record myself, you know, entering the numbers into the calculator, uh, getting the answer. So I'm, I'm doing all the steps that someone in the exam would have to do. I'm doing it on the video series and talking through it the whole way.
So, um, you know, to my knowledge, like I said, I don't think there's any other resource that has that type of, uh, guidance in terms of video and recorded solutions. Um, I, I think it's been a, a, a big benefit so far the feedback, uh, you know, so far this year has been pretty good and hopefully that translates to, uh, many or all of my clients, uh, passing the exam this year as well.
So hopefully it's a good resource for them. Yeah. I think, uh, what you've touched on and maybe you feel this way too, but I feel like if I wanna learn how to do anything, I just go and like, uh, search it on Google and like watch a video about it. And so, like the format that you're offering people is like the way in which a lot of people who are of the generation to be taking the test right now are used to, you know, absorbing information in that way, like watching a video, like rewinding it back, like making sure they understand it and kind of, um, so I think that that's really interesting and definitely resonates with the way that I, uh, like to learn.
So. That's cool to hear you speak about that. Um, yeah, for sure. And, and, and, um, yeah, I mean, like I said, the feedback so far has been good, but I think the real, um, you know, proof of its value would be in, in a very good pass rate for people. So, um, we'll, we'll wait to see on that, you know, the, the computer base exam was introduced, uh, last year for the first time.
And there was a, a historically higher than normal pass rate, uh, which, you know, we could certainly get into a a speculation contest on why that was. Um, but at any rate, the, uh, my, my guess would be that this year, the pass rate would be a little bit lower than last year, just because there seemed to be kind of this abnormal spike last year.
But at any rate, the, uh, the exam, I think is definitely passable, uh, to, to folks who do the type of preparation that we've been talking about here. So hopefully, um, you know, the people that have taken the time to go through my, my series or Joe Myers, uh, materials as well, hopefully they, uh, do very well this year.
Yeah. I think that's great. I wanted to speak with you about that. Like the computer based testing. Um, I'm I mean, I got to take the last paper based test, so I kind of missed out on, you know, the way things are gonna be from now on, uh, part of me wishes. I would've gotten to take that, uh, computer based testing.
So then I would have some idea. Uh, but yeah, I think it's so wild that. That anomaly of the pass rate being historically in the sixties or, uh, the low sixties, or maybe even lower, I think, um, then shooting up to like the eighties or something is pretty wild. Um, so yeah, I would love to hear, uh, like what you think about how, uh, C B T or computer based testing has changed the game.
And, um, I mean, like, I don't even really understand, uh, how the references and like interface and all that works with, uh, the new exam as compared to lugging in a toe of books, which I'm sure people are already tired of hearing me talk about, uh, my, uh, you know, card full of book story, but right. well, I, I certainly have a similar story.
Uh, you know, I took the exam in California and, you know, I had to fly to get to the exam site. So. You know, I had a, a regular bag with my, my clothes in it, and I had a separate bag, uh, you know, full 50 pound suitcase, full of books and standards and references. So sounds like we had a similar experience.
Yeah. Um, you know, one thing with that too, is that I spent so much time during the study season, uh, tapping. So putting in these tabs in the various codes and standards, you know, because you're literally bringing in a hard copy of those into the exam. So if you can quickly find the right chapter, you know, it can really help you.
Um, so that whole process of, you know, tabbing your books and carding in, you know, 8, 9, 10 different documents into the exam, you know, that's all gone away. And I, I think there's some pros and cons to that. The. If, if you go through that process of, of being very familiar with the hard copies, I think people who, who did that were generally pretty fast, you know, at finding what they needed to find.
Um, whereas now it's all, you know, electronic resources that, you know, you do have a search feature, um, which could be faster, but at the same time, um, you know, I think there's instances where you don't know the right search term, but maybe, you know, the right ballpark to be in and, and folks, you know, could maybe do that faster with a, a hard copy, but at any rate, the, uh, you know, that whole way of preparing hard copy materials has gone away.
Um, so now it's, you know, being familiar with navigating through an electronic version of the, uh, documents and. You know, the, uh, the NCS reference is several hundred pages, and then you have, um, all, all the NFPA, uh, codes and standards, which are references on the exam. Um, you know, according to the NCS, uh, and I've gotten this straight from them, uh, you know, the.
The exam could give you a, a full copy of any of the NFPA documents electronically, or they could also give you an excerpt from any of those documents. And that could be in the problem itself, or it could just be an excerpt as a PDF file or, you know, using whatever electronic, uh, file viewer they're using during the exam.
So, um, you know, I, I think folks who took the first electronic exam last year had, uh, it seems like the, their experience was one thing. Um, but again, what I, I try to emphasize to my clients is that, you know, the NCS has left the door open, that it could be any of those ways of delivering the reference to you.
Um, so you, you need to be prepared for all of. But, um, a, a number of key differences there with the, um, the, the, the way you go about looking up your references. Another important change is the addition of these, uh, alternative question types and, uh, you know, so GU you and I took the paper exam. So, uh, basically for, you know, the entire history of the PE exam, um, it was all multiple choice with four answers and you select one answer, right?
Um, now, uh, there are these alternative question types where they can give you more than four answers and it could be select all that apply. So you might be selecting all five or all four instead of just one. Uh, they've also opened up these. Like ranking type questions where you might have to rank possible answers in order from greatest to smallest or something like that.
Um, you know, those are just a couple examples of these alternative question types, which, uh, I think it does. Um, it, it, it opens up the exam to be a little more to. Actual situations which an engineer might encounter. Right? So as you know, in the real world, it's, you know, you, you hardly ever encounter a situation where you're presented with here are the four possible answers.
Pick one, you know, usually it's a little bit more ambiguous than that. And I think these alternative question types might. Uh, simulate something like that a little bit better, but it also does make it more challenging to prepare for because, uh, now, you know, whereas previously it was, you had a one in four shot of guessing the right answer.
Uh, that's not necessarily the case anymore with these, you know, select all that apply or put these answers in the right order with those question types. Uh, it, it just makes it a little bit different and something that you need to prepare for while you're studying. Yeah. I think that's a great point. I remember that they were talking about that when they were, uh, really discussing the transition into the computer based testing and, you know, the differences highlighting the differences.
And, um, I think that sounds intimidating, you know, select all the, you know, select the point on this diagram that illustrates the flame jet or something to that extent where it's not a, like a very, uh, maybe just not like a, a to B type of question, but I think it poses definitely. A lot of interesting ways that the question could be asked or the types of questions that could be asked.
I feel like it kind of bust so wide open, but one thing I did want to touch on was, uh, you know, you're talking about the, the references and codes and standards, um, uh, I'd say good piece of advice for people, you know, uh, all kind of people in all kind of roles take the FPE exam. So, um, being comfortable with the NFPA documents and how they're laid out, uh, is a huge strength for the exam.
So even if you do have the ability to search, um, having that background knowledge of, uh, how the codes and standards are set up and, you know, knowing where the annex and the, and the indices and, um, just the different components and pieces of those NFPA documents is a huge, uh, way to give yourself an edge during the exam.
So. I like that point. I just wanted to touch on that again, probably just a general note of like, you know, wanting to like keep reaching people and keep growing the, the audience and the people who are taking the prep course is probably a big goal for you. But, uh, on top of that, I just am, you know, kind of curious and fascinated by the whole thing.
And just wanted to, uh, talk about like what your ideas are for the future, for the, the PE roadmap and just, uh, different kind of prep services and things. I'm sure you're in the thick of it now. So it might be hard to look outside at this, uh, round of the exam. But, um, I also know that you're, uh, not one to, to rest on the last, uh, move or project that he did.
So I'm sure that you have some ideas about the future and what you'd like to do with it. Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I, I do want to continue to, to grow the PE prep side of things each year. Um, and, uh, the goal is really to, to continue to put out good products that really help people to prepare for the exam.
Well, and, uh, you know, I think, uh, in the video series this year, I, I, I, I think at least so far, I've been able to do that with, uh, these video solutions that I have have been telling you about. Um, you know, there are a number of other prep, uh, resources available. I've already mentioned some of the mere fire materials earlier on, and then.
You know, obviously, uh, the SFP puts out a course and there's some other providers that offer a full course as well. And I, I have gone back and forth, you know, in thinking through, would I want to do a course at some point in the future. Um, you know, the, those courses that are, you know, live instruction over the course of, you know, 10 or 15 sessions are, um, often they're pretty expensive.
Right. Um, you know, I think some of those with materials can be over $2,000. So, uh, if, if your company is paying for that, that's great. Um, but many people are in a situation where their company isn't willing to pay for that, or they're just, you know, they, they would have to put that money up themselves. So.
Um, I would love to continue to be able to offer resources that are, are really valuable, but also at a price point that are accessible for most people. Um, and you know, if it seems like in the future that doing some sort of course I is, is feasible within those goals, then I'd be open to it. But, um, you know, haven't necessarily decided one way or the other, uh, one thing that I have also, uh, gone back and forth on is one-on-one coaching.
So last year, in addition to the, the roadmap study guide, I did offer a limited number of one-on-one, uh, exam coaching sessions. And those I think went really well. Got a lot of really good feedback. I really do enjoy working with people one on one. I think you're able to connect with them and assist them in a, a, a much deeper and more meaningful way than, uh, all pre-recorded content.
But at the same time, you know, there is a limit to how much of that you can do. And, um, you know, your time is valuable. So you, you want to try to make sure you're using it in such a way that's, uh, you know, making the most of your time. So those are just some thoughts for the future. Uh, you know, like I said, though, I do want to continue to, to grow it and, and try to find ways to offer more value to people.
Um, you know, one of the competing things that I've got going on right now is that, uh, I did just start my own consulting business, uh, in January and, uh, have been putting a lot of. Into that certainly is that's, you know what I would consider my main, uh, work right now. So, um, I got a number of things competing for my time.
I, I guess, would be a good way to, to summarize it. But, um, yeah, I do want to continue to grow the, the PE prep stuff as well as the, the building code blog in general. Yeah, I understand, sir. I understand. I think you're like me and that it's not a question of, uh, which you know, valuable pursuits do you have in your site?
It's um, how much time do you have to allocate to the already, you know, good ideas that you have, uh, Uh, trying to gain momentum and keep going. I kind of feel the same way as you, in that regard. There's just so much time in the day and you can only, uh, you know, um, trade in so much of it. But, um, before we move on to your, uh, professional space more, I guess, well, I guess they're both professional, but really more of the consulting side of things I wanted to just ask you.
I know that we. Had so many good, um, you know, tips, tricks, and just ways to dissect, analyze like an engineer and attack the FPE exam. But I just wanted to ask you on the tail end of this little chunk about, uh, fire protection, uh, engineering, PE exam, uh, what is, uh, what's a piece of advice that you would give somebody who's who's going into it?
Who's um, maybe feeling a little bit, a little bit daunted or, uh, Yeah. Want to take a moment to talk about our sponsor today? Waner Waner is a family owned business to provide services in many commercial and industrial market sectors, including electrical and fire alarm systems, the internet of things, digital transformation, and much, much more LTER is headquartered out of Lenexa, Kansas, but is decentralized in that they have technicians across the nation.
They're looking for good candidates for fire alarm technicians in a variety of locations across the us. You can find out the details of these jobs and much more about walk on walk.com/careers. That's w a C HT E r.com/careers. Let's get back to the show. Sure. Yeah. Um, well I think just building on some of the items we had talked about earlier would be, uh, You know, set up that schedule early the study schedule.
And, uh, I would agree. I mean, the PE exam covers a huge range of content, uh, you know, between all the resources that are the reference standards, um, plus other resources like the NFPA and SFP handbooks, you've got thousands of pages of material that, you know, you could be tested. And that can be really overwhelming for people, but, um, you know, the good news is, is that even seasoned fire protection engineers who have been in the industry for 20 or 30 years, you know, they don't know everything.
They don't know everything in the NFPA or SFP handbooks. Um, but they are people who probably know where to go in order to find the answer to questions that are asked in the fire protection world. So, um, if you can set up a, a study schedule and just stick to it doing a little bit each week, you know, I think, uh, in, in my conversations with people who have done well on the exam, uh, folks who spend, you know, anywhere from five to 10 hours a week, uh, are usually in a good position to, uh, pass the exam, certainly that, uh, commitment might ramp up in, in the month before the exam, as you do more practice problems and maybe a full length practice exam, but, um, You know, I think if, if you're serious about taking the fire protection P exam, um, you should just be willing to, to allocate, you know, at least that amount of time per week.
Um, and if you're willing to do that, I think you have a good shot at passing. Um, you know, building on that, I would say too, is that it is a season and it's gonna pass. Um, I remember when I was studying, I mean, I had to give up a lot of time with my wife and, uh, doing other things that I would've loved to have been doing, but, um, you know, that time passes and, you know, when you pass the exam, it's definitely worth it.
And one of the great things in the, the professional engineering world is that once you pass the PE, you generally should never have to take it again, barring some, you know, crazy circumstance. So get it out of the way once. And, uh, you know, if, if you stay in the engineering field, your whole career, that could be the last exam you ever have to take.
So, um, you know, set that steady schedule up early and, uh, chip away at it week by week. And you should be in a good position to. Yeah, I think that's great. Yeah. I think that, uh, I took a prep course and yeah. I mean like the, the they're so expensive. I mean like the, the big, full link courses that you're talking about and, you know, uh, having that, uh, mentality of being able to sit down and schedule it out is a huge pro.
Um, but, uh, yeah, I don't know. I just think about, uh, people who are maybe not, um, as like organized in that regard, it's even more important to kind of write it down and keep yourself accountable. And, and one thing that I always like to mention is. You know, try to find that community that we've talked a lot about those mere fire problems, but there's a leaderboard and, you know, people getting together on those problems and discussing the problems.
And so maybe that could be a community for you too. It help you keep accountable and help you keep on track. Um, as far as the, the PE exam space. Yeah, I would agree the, uh, the community is important. Uh, I didn't mention that, but I definitely had, uh, some other people, you know, who were in the same boat as me, uh, getting ready to take the exam that I would do some study sessions with, or, you know, even call 'em up occasionally to ask some questions about, you know, Hey, I had trouble with this problem or this concept.
Um, plus two, I mean, if, if you're doing it alone, um, you know, if you stick to, let's say if you're even just doing five hours a week, um, and you start 20 weeks out, I mean, that's, that's a hundred hours. Uh, that's just a lot of time to be studying, you know, alone. In a library or in your basement or wherever you're doing it.
Um, so, you know, if you can find someone to do that with on occasion, it really, I, I think it improves the, uh, the quality and the, the, uh, the experience of your study time, but doubt it doubt it can be rough. It can be rough. And, you know, sometimes if you're just studying in a bubble, you might, you, even, if you are doing good, you might be like questioning it.
You're starting to get a, like a Stockholm syndrome from studying in a room too long. But, uh, wondering like, uh, if the, the test is, you know, turning on you, if you're just, uh, beating it up, but yeah. Right. That's ridiculous. But, uh, that Dick can definitely feel like that, but I wanted to, yeah, definitely to break into your consulting, uh, side of things that you've gotten into, you know, you've been in the.
Consulting field for, uh, I think like a decade or more. And so you just recently kind of started your own, started your own firm. I'd love to hear more about that. And what's, uh, what's been going on the last year. Yeah. So, uh, in January of this year, uh, I was previously with, uh, Arab, which is a large, you know, multidisciplinary engineering firm, uh, in their Washington DC office.
And, uh, I left Arab and started my own, uh, consulting firm and, um, doing the same services that I had been doing previously. So, uh, life safety and building code consulting, probably the biggest one, uh, but also doing fire protection design, uh, as well as performance space design. So fire modeling, egress modeling, smoke control, things of that nature.
And, um, yeah, uh, gust, I mean, that's, it's, it was a huge journey to get to that point. Um, you know, I think I've had an entrepreneurial desire, uh, for really as long as I can remember. And, uh, you know, prior to starting my own company, I, I had a number of different side projects, side hustles that, uh, I think were really good experiences to kind of scratch that itch and also, uh, test the water, so to speak.
So, um, you know, a few examples that come to mind is, uh, you know, a couple years outta college, I was, uh, got into this, uh, beef jerky side hustle where I was, uh, selling beef jerky on the side, so completely unrelated to engineering. Uh, but that was just a really good experience of learning about. Um, you know, sourcing products, delivering products to, to clients, uh, how to set up a website to accept payments and doing with, you know, dealing with customer service a little bit after that, I was also, you know, selling some things on Amazon.
Uh, I think a lot of people have at least heard of, of folks who do that, um, you know, creating a product or even just reselling things on Amazon. Uh, there's a lot of, a lot of information online about that, but, um, you know, again, that was just a interesting experience in, um, marketing as well as the, the business side of things and doing taxes for business and, uh, you know, some of the other administrative things that come along with the business.
And then, you know, most recently before I made this jump full-time I was doing the, uh, uh, the, the building code blog as a side project. And, uh, you know, that is, that really just started as a, an outlet for me to write about, um, code topics that I found interesting. And, um, you know, apart from the, uh, PE roadmap stuff that I sell in there, I, I wasn't actually, you know, monetizing that initially.
Um, but again, just a, a really good experience in setting up a website and kind of, you know, doing something where you're creating a, a, a new platform or a new, uh, source of content for your clients. Um, but, uh, all those things, uh, you know, kind of led me to this point of, of getting these small experiences along the way, uh, of doing little side entrepreneurial things, um, And then, you know, in this January and, and the, the period right before that, I, I, I came to this decision that I felt like I, uh, I knew enough in the fire protection world that I could go out on my own.
And, and that certainly doesn't mean that I, uh, don't have more to learn. I, I think, you know, you should be learning, you know, your whole career for sure. And fire protection is such a, a broad field that there's an endless number of things that you could learn about. But, uh, within the, the areas that I, I typically operate in, I felt like I, I was at a pretty comfortable and confident point with my, my technical skill.
That I could, uh, make that jump on my own. Another big piece that was really exciting for me is, is I really enjoy interacting with and serving my clients. And you certainly can do that when working for a company. Uh, but I think going out on your own, uh, you're really then relying on those client relationships because, uh, you know, your clients are who pay your bills.
Um, and when you're I, when you're on your own company, if you have no clients, you don't have a business. So, um, it, it, it went from, you know, a, a pretty important thing. Uh, when I was with a, another company in terms of managing client relationships to now, it's probably the most important thing for, for my business is, uh, to ensure that I'm serving my clients well, so that.
You know, sound like a daunting task. And at times it, it is challenging, but it's also a really exciting thing too. Um, you know, it means that I get to, you know, try to set up my business and operate it in such a way that it's, uh, really looking to serve my clients and give them a good experience. Um, and that's something that really excites me.
Like I would love, uh, all of my clients to, uh, really enjoy working with me, knowing that I provide certainly good technical service, but also a really G a great customer experience and that they know that they can call me that I'm gonna answer them promptly. I'm gonna, um, you know, give good advice whether it's on, on the, the building code or a fire protection question.
Um, and just in general that they're gonna enjoy working with me. So, um, I'm really excited to get, to do that and to, to shape my business in such a way that I can really focus it on doing those things. Yeah, that's awesome. It's cool that, uh, and it's appeared and it's like, uh, coming to my consciousness as well, you know, starting to, to have the podcast and, you know, all you are is this, uh, outward facing interaction with, um, the, the people who are the stakeholders, which is the audience, and then the, you know, the client, um, about how much different that is from when you work at a company.
And, you know, I might only work in production and might not even have any interface with the, with the client. And then, you know, like how different those two fields are and that sort of eat what you kill mentality of entrepreneurship is, is definitely something that, uh, I think is awesome and just have seen in, in my short stint with the podcast.
But yeah, I love hearing about that. It's cool to hear about, uh, you making your own way and I. Dealing with customers and kind of, uh, facilitating design on your own, on your own terms, but also being beholden in a different way than you were used to, uh, to the client sort of things. So, yeah, I think that's, that's really neat to hear about.
Yeah, it's, it's been a fun journey so far. Um, you know, and, and I think I'm off to a really good start and I'm excited for, uh, where the, the future holds and, and where it's gonna take me. Um, I, I would also though point out that I, I think that there are some, some definite challenges in starting your own business and, you know, any entrepreneur, uh, I think can relate to this and that, you know, it is scary to go out on your own.
Um, You know, uh, most people start their career working for a company, which means that you have a, uh, either a salary or some sort of hourly rate that you're making. And, you know, basically as long as you show up to work, uh, you are going to get paid, uh, that amount. Whereas, you know, when you go off on your own, you're giving up that guaranteed salary or guaranteed pay, uh, because for the first, you know, first many days, weeks, or months of starting your own business, uh, you could be working nonstop and you're not gonna make any money to start.
So, uh, giving up that security of a, a guaranteed paycheck is, is a challenge for sure. And, you know, definitely something you have to, uh, plan for. You know, I, I have a family. That I provide for, and, and certainly I'm not gonna put them in a position where I'm just, you know, gambling on, am I going to, uh, you know, be able to pay our bills on time?
So there, there is obviously a risk with, with any sort of entrepreneurial venture, but, um, you know, I think most people would do well to prepare in advance for that by, you know, saving some money in advance that you can live on for the first few months, while you get things off the ground. Another thing that's been a, a challenge is the, uh, the, just kind of the, the, the missing, um, resources that you have with a company, you know?
So, so one example for that would be, uh, you know, when you work for a larger company and you have a question, whether it's a technical question, or maybe it's a. Administrative question about, you know, filling out some form or something, whatever it is. Uh, there's typically a lot of people that you can go to and, you know, GU I, you probably have that at your company where if you have a sprinkler question that you don't know the answer to, you can call someone up real quick or type in a chat and typically get an answer fairly quickly.
Um, you, you lose some degree of that when you're an entrepreneur, because, uh, you, you no longer have coworkers, at least at the start where you can ask, you know, all these questions and, uh, that can be a challenge for sure. Uh, I, I think I've been really fortunate to be a part of, uh, a group of other fire protection entrepreneurs.
Um, you know, Joe Meyer would be one. I talked about him earlier and, uh, I think, I think you've had Dave Stacy on this podcast. Yeah. Uh, um, so Dave and I went to the university of Maryland together and, you know, he started his company a couple years before me, but he's been a great resource. Um, Uh, another guy's Brandon Wilkerson out, um, in the Midwest who, you know, started his own engineering company a couple years ago.
Uh, he's been a, an awesome resource. So, uh, you know, those guys, they're, they're not my coworkers per se, but they've in many ways have filled that role, uh, because those are the guys that I'll, I'll reach out to when I have, you know, random one off questions. So, um, it's, uh, it is a journey for sure. But, um, yeah, there there's some challenges, you know, like I was saying there that, uh, I, I think, you know, that they're hard at first, but ultimately they add to the, uh, that the satisfaction when you can, you know, work through those things and, and continue to, to grow your company and, and make it as an entrepreneur.
I think just something to, to point out. It's not all, uh, it's not all easy trails, uh, especially the first few months of starting a company. Yeah. I can imagine that. I was just thinking about the other day, like just, uh, like transmittals and just like all the construction administration, like processing and everything that has to go on for projects is like a huge task in itself.
Uh, so it's just like all those little tasks, tasks that you might have had a depart hold department for at a large company. And then you, you become, uh, accounting, you become marketing, you become, uh, you know, all of the above. So it's, it's definitely seems daunting for sure. To hear about just like, uh, yeah.
To have to encompass all of that. Um, but, but that's awesome. I like hearing about it and yeah, I know, uh, Brandon Wilkerson is part of my local, uh, SFP chapter. So he's one of he's one of the first people I had, uh, come speak about like, uh, what it is to be a fire protection engineer when I was going to school.
So that's funny that you mentioned him. Uh, I can remember, uh, Brandon Wilkerson, uh, shucking and Javin talking about a military hanger that he had done when I was still a student and I was like, whoa. I was like, this guy is incredible. I was like, what is going on? Um, yeah, so that's great now Brandon's, Brandon's a great guy.
That's, uh, that's, that's great that you got to hear from him, you know, when you were younger. Yeah. So I wanted to pick your brain here at the end. Um, uh, just talk to you about, uh, like what kind of trends do you see right now in the industry or, you know, you could take it from the PE prep space or just your consulting, like.
Um, just kind of what you see going on in design or just your life in general? Sure. A couple things that come to mind, uh, maybe starting in the, just the construction space, uh, would be, uh, a big push for, uh, sustainability. Um, and, and that's not a new trend by any means, but I think that it's a trend that's gotten a lot more traction in recent years, uh, from a building code standpoint in the, the 2021, uh, international building code IBC, um, the, uh, type four construction, which is historically just been heavy Tinder, heavy timber, excuse me, was completely overhauled.
And, uh, there's now, uh, a type four, a four B and four C construction, which allows for, um, mass timber construction. Um, and in the case of, um, Type four, a you can go up to, I believe it's 18 stories or 270 feet. Uh, don't quote me on those exact numbers, but that's the ballpark, uh, which is way taller than you could previously build a wood building.
So, uh, you know, that's the, the codes really catching up to this, uh, this push from, uh, a broad base of, of people, uh, wanting to see more, uh, sustainable construction practices allowed in the code. So I, I think that's, you know, now that that's been codified and as jurisdictions begin to adopt the 20, 21 IBC, uh, I do think you're gonna see more tall wood building.
Um, you know, the, the number of mass timber buildings in the us continues to, to grow. Uh, and, and I think it will continue to expand exponentially, uh, if I had to guess. So that would be a big one. Um, similarly with, uh, other ICC codes, like the energy conservation code or the green building codes, uh, there are, um, increasing energy efficiency requirements that are put into the code each cycle.
Um, and, and I think all that will really culminate in many jurisdictions. Um, if they haven't already putting forward these, uh, net zero requirements where, uh, new buildings that are built, you know, have to have a net zero contribution to, uh, whether it's putting carbon into the atmosphere or maybe just global warming in general.
And, uh, you know, some. Some cities have already set a goal for that. And, and I think, you know, many are doing it off in the distance. Let's say like in the year 2050, but some have put a, a much more aggressive goal, like 20, 40 or 2030. But, uh, I think as you know, the coming years, um, you know, as we get into the coming years and more and more codes are going to allow and, or require greener buildings, we're gonna see more and more of that, uh, put forth.
So, uh, definitely a trend to, you know, keeping keep in mind. And, uh, certainly folks who are in the, the code consulting world, you know, that's gonna be, I think a big part of what we do is, uh, you know, adopting our code advice to clients in order to help them meet, um, These various sustainability initiatives, particularly as it pertains to the, the construction of the building and the, the protection of it.
Yeah, I think that's a great point. I've seen a big surge recently, too in sustainability and, uh, so I can definitely resonate with that, uh, sentiment. Um, just seeing how the different, um, Alternative energies and, uh, materials for buildings has been, uh, pushed for sure. What have you seen as far as all of these, uh, escalations and material, how has been your experience with the, you know, like, um, the price of commodities, it's been such a whirlwind ride for all my projects and, uh, dealing with the, the escalations in steel, concrete glass, adhesives, uh, computer chips for fire alarm panels.
It just seems like borderline across the board. We've seen some miraculous hike in, uh, materials. Yeah. Certainly have experienced that. And, uh, you know, I I've actually had a number of projects that I'm working on. Go on hold because, uh, you know, seemingly outta nowhere, the, the cost estimates have gone through the roof, uh, particularly with, with lumber prices.
Um, Yeah. So, I mean, that's, that is kind of a crazy phenomenon to just have that happen so quickly. Um, you know, obviously a lot of that coincided with the, the beginning of the pandemic, but, uh, yeah, I mean, a really kind of, uh, Unprecedented, at least to my knowledge, uh, spike in the cost of wood, which is, uh, you know, really challenging, especially for, uh, smaller buildings, you know, like, uh, single family homes or, you know, just even smaller commercial buildings that, you know, the primary materials would, uh, I mean, that could, that can really crush the, the whole project.
Um, I've got some friends who, you know, were in the process of, uh, building a, a home for themselves and, you know, their, the price of their house went up, uh, over a hundred thousand dollars, you know, in the span of a couple weeks. Right. Which is just a, you know, for a single family home, that's like that might completely make it, you know, outta your price range for, for many people.
Um, you know, you're seeing the impacts even on a smaller scale, which is, is pretty crazy. Uh, hopefully that's, you know, I, I think that has died down some and hopefully will continue, you know, back to, uh, you know, kind of pre pandemic pricing levels. Um, you know, the, the impact of that is, is big. Um, you know, wood is, uh, it is a renewable material and it's, it's certainly much better for the environment than other, uh, non-renewable construction materials.
So, um, you know, kind of having that almost unavailable for a period of time due to the high price, I, I think is, is a challenge for really all parts of the, the construction market. Yeah. Uh, in terms of other, uh, materials, you know, I, I certainly have been, you know, I've heard on the news, the, you know, the shortage in, uh, computer chips and, and whatnot.
Um, I can't say that I've seen a direct impact of that, uh, yet, um, But, uh, certainly, you know, in, in other industries like the, like the auto industry, for example, uh, know of some production shortages and things like that, where it's been, you know, companies have had to reduce the number of cars they're making, cuz they can't get enough chips for the car, that sort of, uh, situation.
But, um, yeah, certainly. I mean, if that continues, uh, you know, a building has a surprising number of computers in it, whether it's just the, uh, the building automation system or fire alarm panels or uh, you know, even, um, you know, controls for fans and air handling units, those all have computer chips in them.
And uh, yeah, I mean, if, if that continues, certainly you, you might expect to see a, a price increase or a, a time delay in getting those things in buildings. For sure. That's all great points. Well, Chris, I wanna be mindful of your time. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really think we laid down some FPE prep gold here in the first 30 minutes, and then to got to round it out with some interesting, um, consulting practice, uh, information as well.
So just wanna say, thanks, sir. It's been a. Thanks guest. I appreciate you having me. Um, and, and just to, to follow up on, uh, what you mentioned at the beginning, um, if, uh, if, if folks listening are still looking for some, uh, PE exam, uh, prep materials would definitely recommend, uh, the, uh, Joe Meyers Meer fire prep guide and prep series, which you can find on his website, mere fire.com.
Um, and then the, the video roadmap series that we talked about at the beginning, uh, you can find that building code.blog/pe-roadmap. Um, so we would definitely recommend checking those out and, uh, certainly wish people who are studying for exam, uh, best of luck, uh, as they take that in October. Awesome.
Yeah, we'll be sure to throw some links down in the show notes for those who are interested and want to go check out more on the subject, but, uh, that's. All right. Well, thanks again, GU for having me, it was great chatting with you. Thanks for listening, everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business.
The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes end standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.