Board Shadow Program participant Jacinda Cheatham
Encouraging and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders: Board Shadow Program participant Jacinda Cheatham
For Jacinda Cheatham, building safety runs in the family. Her dad has been an International Code Council member for more than 20 years and is an International Code Council certified building official. Cheatham remembers her dad building houses when she was a child. She also remembers helping him.
“Although I don’t know how much help I actually was,” she said, laughing. As her dad’s career evolved, Cheatham had a front-row seat. “I watched him do it all, from being an inspector to a plans examiner to a building official. He even taught at trade schools. I would go to work with him periodically, so I saw it first-hand.”
In 2017, Cheatham accompanied her dad to the annual Ohio Building Officials Association joint conference and met a recruiter from SAFEbuilt while she was there. She applied for a part-time role as a permit technician and got the job. Soon, she moved into property maintenance and eventually into her current position as a building administration services administrator, where she is responsible for routing the commercial plan review for SAFEbuilt clients across the state.
“It’s really cool sharing this with my dad. We have always been close, so [being in the same industry] is just one more thing that we have in common,” she said.
Cheatham may have followed in her dad’s footsteps, but she is already making a name for herself in the industry. She is the president of the Ohio Chapter of Permit Technicians. She has earned three International Code Council certifications so far — permit technician, property maintenance inspector and ADA plans examiner/inspector — and will soon add a fourth to the list. (She is currently working on her fire plans examiner certification.) She also attended the 2021 International Code Council Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of the Code Council’s Board Shadow Program.
“The ICC conference made me even more excited about my job,” she said. “It helped me realize that there are even more opportunities that I can have in my career.”
She remembers her dad talking about the code hearings when she was younger but attending in person gave her a better understanding and appreciation. “Being able to participate in the code hearings and experience them first-hand helped. It makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger, and you can make a difference by helping change the codes for the future. I was really impressed with the whole event. It was great being able to network and meet so many people.”
Cheatham was a board shadow to Code Council Board Director Mike Boso and said the board shadow experience was very positive. She is grateful for the opportunity to get an inside look at how the board operates, how they are helping to shape building codes in the United States, and how they are impacting building safety around the world. She also said the experience has made her feel more invested in, and excited about, her career.
“I would definitely recommend [the Board Shadow Program]. If this is a career that you want to stay in, I think it is very helpful and will get you more involved,” Cheatham explained. “It will also get you more excited about your career and show you that there is more to this than your jurisdiction and what you are doing day by day. You can keep going forward and you can make a difference in this career. If this is something that you are passionate and excited about, [the Board Shadow Program] is a great opportunity to network with more people and learn more about what we do as a whole.”
In addition to encouraging those already in the industry to further their knowledge and connections by applying for the Board Shadow Program, Cheatham hopes to inspire the next generation of code officials. She believes it’s important to make the industry more visible because a career in building safety isn’t on the radar for most people.
“I graduated from a private high school, so I didn’t have a career center. I didn’t have anyone coming into my high school and talking about careers,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have known about it either. Most people don’t think about it unless they’re buying a house and have to get a permit to change something. And most of the time, if you’re buying a house, you already have your own career.”
Getting into trade schools and high schools is one way that Cheatham thinks the Code Council and industry professionals can develop relationships with the next generation. With so many remote opportunities now, many of today’s high school students won’t be looking for traditional roles. By connecting with them in a digital way, introducing them to building safety as a career option and showing them that they can make a living this way, the industry can help shape its next emerging leaders.
For those who do follow in her footsteps, as she followed in her dad’s, Cheatham offers this advice:
“Find yourself a good mentor. Relationships are so important. Having the right people around you can change how you view what you are doing and where you end up. They will help you realize that you can keep progressing in your career. There is so much room for growth in this industry. Having people to guide you and help you take the next step is important.”
|To help facilitate inclusive, collaborative relationships between seasoned code professionals and emerging industry leaders, the International Code Council created its Board Shadow Program — part of its successful Safety 2.0 initiative — which provides an opportunity for emerging code professionals to “shadow” the Code Council Board of Directors at its annual conference and public comment hearings, to intercept and absorb information and experience real-time leadership as they observe their board mentors.
Now in its fifth year, the program provides an opportunity for the Code Council board to connect to diverse emerging professionals from different socio-demographic backgrounds and enables senior leaders to hear a different level of thinking to real-time issues facing young code professionals today. The board gets a much broader range of views on strategic, complex and critical issues, and a feedback loop of challenge, solution, development and learning is created. The program demonstrates the benefits of investing in future code development leaders and helps create a diverse pipeline of “ready-to-go” leaders who understand and are already contributing to the construction industry.