Six years ago this month, I attended my first AHR Expo. It was in Dallas that year, and I was there covering it for one of PM’s sister publications, The NEWS.

I’d been on the job for all of three weeks, having made the jump from “mainstream” media to trade media just after the New Year. I knew nobody there aside from coworkers, and being brand new to the HVACR industry itself, I was about as green as green can be.

On the very first day of the AHR Expo, I was standing at BNP’s booth (probably looking very lost and confused) when up walks this tall guy with a huge grin on his face.

He reaches out to shake my hand.

“You must be Jen!” he says, more enthusiastically than I was expecting. “I’m so happy to meet you.”

I don’t know why, but I instantly knew this guy was 100% genuine. I grabbed his hand, shook it, and smiled in return.

While I had been lost moments before, utterly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the AHR Expo, this kind face and firm handshake instantly made me feel welcomed. Like I actually belonged there.

“My name is Dan Holohan,” he explains. “I write for your magazines.”

“Hi, Dan. It’s nice to meet you.”

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting numerous wonderful people in this industry, from the manufacturers to the distributors right on down to many of you contractors and techs reading this magazine. I’ve traveled coast to coast, to Canada, and even to China to cover this industry.

I’ve come to care more about the skilled trades than I ever would have imagined. I’ve written extensively about the skills gap and workforce development efforts to fix it. I’ve explored what some manufacturers, associations, organizations and contractors are doing to bring more people into the industry.

And I’ve become an advocate. In addition to joining Women in HVACR, I recently had the honor of speaking about the benefits of a career in the skilled trades at a local TEDx event. It’s difficult not to care about this industry when the people in it are so welcoming — so passionate about what they do.

And make no mistake — the people are absolutely the best part of this industry, and you are what I will miss most.

In next month’s issue, you’ll see someone else’s name on the masthead under “Chief Editor,” and someone else’s editorial here in the back of the issue. I encourage you to reach out and give them a welcome as warm and genuine as the one Dan Holohan gave me six years ago. Like me, they’re embarking on a new adventure, a new beginning. I know you’ll show them the best part of this industry right off the bat.

Thank you all for six incredible years, and for welcoming me and accepting me as a member of your trade family. It has been an honor, truly.