Member Spotlight: John Chamberlin
The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) dives inside the career of John Chamberlin, Senior Product Manager for Georgia-Pacific. In this feature interview, learn what made him become an ABAA member, what led him on his career path, and get his perspective on the future of the air barrier industry.
John Chamberlin is the Senior Product Manager at Georgia-Pacific responsible for DensElement® Barrier System and the DensDefy line of products. Mr. Chamberlin has worked in the building products industry for his entire career with most of his work focusing on new product development for disruptive technologies in the building envelope space. Mr. Chamberlin is actively involved in the building industry, serving as a member of multiple committees and director for the board of the Air Barrier Association of America and a frequent attendee of his local Building Enclosure Council. Mr. Chamberlin graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and later received his M.B.A. from Emory University.
Name: John Chamberlin
Title: Senior Product Manager
ABAA member for 8 years
What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession as Senior Product Manager?
A: Honestly, I completely stumbled onto this industry. When I was graduating college I knew that I wanted to be in Atlanta and close to my then girlfriend, now wife, and I knew I wanted to work in business which is what I studied as an undergrad. My first job after school was as a Lumber Trader for BlueLinx, a large building products distributor. Over the next few years I gained responsibility for new products and more geography and started to learn about things like insulation, building wraps, and new products like radiant barrier sheathing, advanced underlayment, and the first integral WRB sheathings. I thought these new advanced panel products were especially interesting and I started to learn some of the building science that made them valuable to my customers. I was also going to school at night, getting my MBA at Emory University’s Goizuetta Business School. The classes I enjoyed the most were all focused on strategy and game theory and I realized I could apply those principles to my profession. I left BlueLinx and became a Product Manager at Sto Corp., responsible for stucco systems. Anyone that wants a crash course in moisture management strategies or the difficulties of balancing aesthetics and performance in buildings should spend time learning about stucco systems. Fortunately, I was now starting to learn from true building scientists through my local BEC and through organizations such as ABAA. A couple of years after joining Sto Corp. there was a bunch of turnover and I was given the opportunity to choose which product lines I would be responsible for. Everyone expected me to choose EIFS because that is what Sto is most well known for, but I thought the real opportunity was in Sto’s line of air and moisture barriers. I led that program for Sto for the next several years and got experience in international markets and offsite construction in the process. I spent my last few years at Sto Corp. as their Director of Business Development, looking for innovations in the construction industry. Georgia-Pacific launched the first commercial integral WRB sheathing in 2015 and I couldn’t help but recognize the advantages the system had or how it solved a lot of the problems I was looking for solutions to. In 2018 I made the move over to Georgia-Pacific. If you can’t beat them, join them. Today I get to continue working with organizations like ABAA and learning from the brightest minds in building science and I also have the resources to apply what I learn to new innovations in construction products, services, and processes.
Is there anything that you believe everyone in this industry should be working towards?
A: I really think that everyone in the industry should be focusing as much as possible on education. Buildings today perform at a higher level than buildings that were designed 10 or 20 or 30 years ago and that’s great, but I’ve talked to too many spec writers that specify what they’ve been taught or what they’re used to without really understanding why. There are amazing resources available today to help learn about building science and how to improve the performance of our buildings, but if buildings are designed without an understanding of which strategies to employ and where, mistakes are bound to happen.
What role have peers, mentors, or advisors played in your career?
A: I have been extremely lucky to have been able to learn from multiple mentors and advisors in my career. I wouldn’t have had nearly as much success as I have without some of these individuals taking chances on me, but more than that I’ve been able to learn from their successes and failures. Our industry really is quite small and so over the years I’ve been able to spend time with some of its true leaders, many of whom I now think of as friends of mine.
What led you to become an ABAA member?
A: One of those mentors I mentioned above, Alec Minne, was integral in the early days of getting the ABAA started. He explained ABAA’s mission to me, made the first introductions for me, and invited me to join my first ABAA committees.
Are you involved in any ABAA committees? Do you have any ABAA certifications?
A: I am a Director for the Board, I recently became the Co-Chair for the Conference Committee, and I am a member of the Marketing Committee, I’m also a non-voting observer for the Research Committee.
How long have you been in the industry?
A: 15 years.
What major changes have you seen?
A: I think awareness of how our built environment affects our well being has grown quite a lot. I think that because of that awareness building codes are being adopted more quickly, building performance is improving, and stewardship is becoming an important conversation in our building designs and processes.
What traits or skills do you think are necessary to be able to succeed in your industry?
A: I think intellectual honesty, a hunger for understanding, and a willingness to work hard are all traits that are necessary for success in this industry.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in your field?
A: Very rarely is there one “right answer.” Seek to understand as many different perspectives as you can. Learn as much as you can firsthand and from people with experience. Don’t be afraid to fail, but learn from your failures quickly.
How much demand do you think there is for people in your profession?
A: Every new product and service that is ever brought into the world has a product manager behind it. The building products and construction industry is in a very exciting phase where change is occurring at a rapid pace but the new normal has not yet been defined. Product managers will continue to be in high demand.
What do you think the industry will look like in five or ten year’s time?
A: My hope is that we’re going to see a continuation of the improvement to building performance that we’ve started to recognize in the last five to ten years. I think that the last few months of social distancing and thoughtfulness about future pandemics will probably change how we think about building design and our expectations for performance in new and existing buildings. I think changes in building design and enhancement in performance will drive building materials and processes innovation. I also think we will continue to see growth in trends like offsite construction and sustainability as important parts of the conversation for new construction. Anytime you see a change in demands, like the need for more sustainable solutions, or in processes, like the growth of offsite construction, you see surges in disruption and innovation. So, I think the next five to ten years of our industry are going to be very exciting.