Rafiq Qutub, a long-time PSAP course trainer, shares what it takes to earn a PSAP certification.
For Rafiq Qutub pumps were love at first sight. Both his parents were civil engineers and so were his uncles. Qutub enjoyed math and science at school, but what really got him hooked on pumps was seeing them in action.
“When I was young, 10 or 12 years old, my father would take me with him to industrial wastewater treatment plants,” he said. “I was fascinated with the equipment, the pumps, piping, and filters. All of it. Engineering just seemed like the natural thing to do.”
Qutub completed his bachelor’s degree in biochemical and environmental engineering at the University of Western Toronto and earned a masters in environmental engineering at the University of Toronto. He has been a consultant for most of his 15-year career and was one of the first people to pass the Hydraulic Institute’s Pump System Assessment Professional (PASP) exam.
We recently asked Qutub how he became a PSAP trainer and how professionals should prepare for the exam.
How did you get involved with PSAP?
It grew out of my involvement with the Hydraulic Institute. I was introduced to HI by a senior engineer who needed assistance from volunteers, so I started attending conferences. When the PSAP certification became available, I jumped at it.
How did you wind up as a PSAP trainer?
I took the test in early 2019 and shortly thereafter, Pump Systems Matter, HI’s educational arm, decided to formalize the training and introduce training courses. When I took it, HI had some guidance about what the test would cover, but no course-specific training.
Pete Gaydon, who was then HI’s technical director, led the first classes. He approached me to see if I wanted to become a trainer. I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I know and learning from others and I want to do things that push me out of my comfort zone, so I began to shadow him so I could conduct a class on my own.
Do you and Pete have different approaches to training?
Every instructor has his own style. I have a consulting background and I really enjoy the theoretical and mathematical aspects of the subject. I find that Pete is more practical because he worked with manufacturers. He draws a lot from that experience and I really liked that.
Did you learn anything about your own strengths and weaknesses while doing the training?
It kept me sharp. The PSAP program covers a wide range of topics and it is impossible to be an expert in every part of industry. For example, one might be an expert on, say, bearings, but not lifecycle costs. But for the PSAP certification, one needs to appreciate both, and many other topics.
Becoming a trainer forced me to refresh my knowledge of things I don’t usually do in my job. At work, I typically focus on system design and assessment and I’m comfortable explaining topics like process design, modeling, hydraulics, and theory. Teaching this course gives me an opportunity to review topics I’m not as familiar with, such as mechanical seals, bearings, and other pump components.
Who are your students?
They all have different backgrounds. Some have 20 or 30 years of experience to share, while others are relative newcomers. We get people from around the world and from different industries. Someone with an oil and gas background, for example, might have different insights than someone else working in commercial buildings or municipal water. This generates discussions that are extremely valuable because participants can benefit from different perspectives.
Most PSAP training classes have been online for the past two years. How has this impacted classroom discussions?
I was scheduled to teach my first solo in-person course in San Antonio in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the whole world to a screeching halt. So, we had to switch to an online format. In a virtual environment, it’s a bit challenging to generate interactive discussions, but we set aside plenty of time during the class to ask questions.
The main challenge is to keep people engaged. It’s a long class, eight hours for the first two days, plus a set of exam-prep questions and discussions about them on the third day. So, I schedule frequent breaks and try to be deliberate in asking questions. I try to challenge participants to come up with the right course of action in various scenarios. That often sparks interesting discussions, which I find quite valuable for myself as well as those taking the course.
How well prepared are your students?
We get people with 30 years of experience who already know most of the curriculum and others with only a few months who have gaps. I literally teach everyone from plant maintenance personnel to sales reps. It’s a fine line to walk. I try not to oversimplify material for the juniors but still accommodate the needs of the seniors.
In the PSAP class, what subjects do your students master most easily?
It’s difficult to generalize because of their varied backgrounds. Some with experience have no problems with any topic, while others might find it overwhelming. Still, everyone understands the general concepts of different pumping systems and lifecycle costing. For the latter, we want people to understand that initial costs are only a small part of overall costs, so we focus on comparing operations and maintenance costs with capital costs. Participants generally get it, and it really changes their perceptions.
What subjects do they have the hardest time picking up?
When we get into detailed calculations, like calculating power consumption, net positive suction head requirements, and things like that, some participants find it a bit challenging, especially if they haven’t done it for a while. Those who do this regularly have no problems, so it depends on their background. It’s important to feel comfortable with the math, whether it’s for performance calculations or cost savings or return on investment.
If you were going to give students advice before they take this class, what would you tell them?
Review HI’s PSAP Certification Study Guide and HI’s Body of Knowledge document in advance. A lot of the content is in there. When they go through it, they should highlight what they need to focus on. That way, when they take the course, they can ask the right questions and engage with the instructor in those areas.
Who should pursue PSAP certification?
Professionals who work with existing pump system assessments. Whether they are manufacturers, consulting engineers, or even end-users, I think it would benefit them a lot because the course focuses on identifying opportunities for energy savings.
More information on the PSAP certification is available here: https://www.pumps.org/what-we-do/psap/
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