Raise your hand if you have read every page of any National Electrical Code® book. Ok, now keep your hand up if you’ve read every public comment when the code was being developed. Every proposal that passed? Every proposal that didn’t pass? Is Ryan Jackson the only one with his hand still up?
Ryan is owner of Ryan Jackson Electrical Training based in Salt Lake City, UT, and he is an instructor, author, and consultant. He is THE code guy for IEC.
“I became an electrician when I was 18, and I quickly discovered a passion for the code,” he says.
He’s been in the trenches installing according to code. He’s been an inspector, checking that others have followed the code. Now, he explains to others how to befriend code, understand it, and use it for your safety and the safety of others.
Let’s walk his career path together.
Following His Brother’s Footsteps
His entry into the electrical field was somewhat happenstance.
“I wasn’t a great student when I was going through high school,” he admits. “In fact, I got kicked out of high school when I was a junior, because I just kind of stopped going. Actually, I don’t know if I dropped out or I got kicked out, but it was kind of agreed between me and the principal that I was no longer a student. I always wanted to be more grown up than I was. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be in junior high. When I was in junior high, I wanted to be in high school. By the time I was in high school, I wanted to be an adult.”
When he left school, he started working full time in construction as a carpenter framing houses. He also was going to school at night to secure that high school diploma. Ryan’s brother who was an electrician in the Marine Corps., came home and Ryan saw he was making more money as an electrician than Ryan was as a carpenter so Ryan decided he wanted to be an electrician.
“It wasn’t any more glamorous than that,” Ryan says.
Early Electrical Work Morphs into Inspection
That passion for code, however, led to his next career move after about five years working as an electrician.
You might say it was Ryan’s destiny to become an inspector. After all, for Ryan’s 18th birthday, his mother gave him the latest NEC® book and a membership to the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. One of the first female inspectors in Utah in the early 1980s, she saw the potential for Ryan in her chosen career.
“My mother was an inspector, and she retired as a building official,” Ryan explains. “She and I always had the same passion for reading books. We’re both big book readers and when I became an electrician at 18, she gave me the code book and said ‘Hey, you need to read this. It’s part of being an electrician.’”
Ryan started reading that code book – he thinks it was the 1993 edition – beginning at page 1 knowing that it was something he needed to know. He tried to read it all and better understand the code, but it was a struggle. Then, he went to a class on the 1999 code.
“It was taught by a person that I now have the pleasure of calling a friend, a gentleman named Noel Williams,” Ryan remembers. “Noel taught this class on the 1999 code, and I was amazed. I didn’t know that there were people that knew the code like that. I didn’t have any idea, because he just he knew everything about the National Electrical Code.”
Along with his amazement, Ryan didn’t realize that there was a job that people had that was to learn the code to that level of mastery. He knew immediately that was his next career step.
The Next Step: Teaching
Ryan knew how to inspect for code violations and instruct contractors appropriately when he saw something amiss. But he wanted to help people earlier. He wanted to be like Noel. He taught his first class on hazardous locations when he was 24.
“I wasn’t good at teaching yet, but I enjoyed it,” he remembers. “It was also terrifying, exciting, and addicting. I learned what I needed to be better at, and that really fueled the fire in me so I started to dial myself in as a code guy and started teaching as many classes as I possibly could.”
Clearly, Ryan improved as an instructor. In 2022, he taught 80 classes from locations in Utah to Kentucky; from individual electrical contracting companies to SPARK 2022. He doesn’t believe his speaking voice could handle any more teaching than that! And to those who might say to him ‘oh, you only worked 80 days in 2022?’
“Yes, I was in class teaching 80 days, but that does not include the preparation time to cater the class to the intended audience, including preparing the PowerPoint.”
He continues to be amazed every day by his students, especially the young apprentices who may be looking at a code book for the first time with fresh eyes.
“Apprentices can turn out your lights as an instructor,” Ryan recalls. “They will ask the best questions; they haven’t had the chance yet to learn something incorrectly or haven’t been tainted so they’ll ask a question or they’ll point something out that’s just amazing.”
Ryan cites an example from an explanation he was giving during one of his classes. He says a first-year apprentice raised his hand and said he didn’t think that was what the code book said.
“I opened up my code book and I was going to show everyone how smart I was,” he remembers. “Instead, I found that this apprentice was right; that’s not what it said at all. Later that day I looked at all my books – including those I’d written and those I’d edited – and everybody had it wrong. I talked with code experts all around the country and I talked to members on the code-making panel and we all realized that this young apprentice was the first person in 30 years to actually see what the rule said!”
Continuing on the Path: Writing
In addition to the time spent teaching and preparing classes, there is the writing portion of his career. That began in 2005 when he went to work for Mike Holt as a technical consultant. He co-authored the code changes book from 2008 through 2017, and edited all of Mike’s other books during that time. When he and Mike parted ways amicably, Ryan was presented with a number of opportunities and that’s where the IEC partnership began.
“I liked what the IEC had to say and they wanted to develop a relationship with me,” he says. “I had taught for IEC of Utah for 10-12 years and IEC National reached out and said they wanted a code person and they wanted that code person to write a book explaining every aspect of the entire 2017 NEC.”
He jumped in with both feet because this was a task that brought together all of his strengths – his deep understanding of electrical code, his burning desire to help others understand it as well, and his teaching abilities. The code expert and instructor turned author got to work – quickly. He had one year to create a 1,700-page textbook – A Comprehensive Guide to the 2017 NEC®.
“I had the 2017 code book open on one monitor and I had my book open on a second monitor and I didn’t talk to anybody for about two months!” Ryan says. “As proud as I am of creating that 2017 book in one year, the 2020 book is significantly better because I had three years to put it together.”
This included taking more and better photographs, using better examples, and adding more commentary. And, of course, making sure that everything was still accurate. With his third edition publishing Q2 2023, Ryan has mastered the presentation of material and incorporated improvements due to helpful feedback from guide users.
With the three-year cycle for the NEC® code review, Ryan works the trifecta – preparing three publications for IEC, each with its specific focus and intended audience (see 2023 IEC Resources).
Wait, There’s More…
In addition to Ryan’s educational seminars and writing about code, he is available for consulting, including serving as an expert witness. When disagreements cannot be resolved out of court, lawsuits occur. While it’s often troubling work involving grave injury to a party, Ryan is committed to using his expertise to help uncover the truth.
“I work for both plaintiffs and defendants, and I usually prefer to work for defendants,” he offers. “When an attorney wants to talk about the code with me to better understand it, I don’t find that intimidating. I actually enjoy the confrontational nature of the work.”
He says it’s rewarding work to help an electrician who gets sued by a plaintiff who perhaps saw some low-hanging fruit and took advantage of it.
“I continue on my journey to learn more and more about the code, and get better at teaching it,” says Ryan. “That’s the story of my career – reading the code, talking about the code, writing about the code, and really just living it and breathing it.”
2023 IEC Resources
A Complete Guide to the 2023 NEC® Changes (available Q1 2023)
This is one book at 300+ pages. Its focus is the 600-some changes that happened since the 2020 edition and is especially helpful for continuing education instructors who help electricians meet licensing requirements in their states. Reasons behind the code changes are included as well as information on how one change might affect other rules.
A Comprehensive Guide to the 2023 NEC® (available Q2 2023)
This is a three-volume set that covers nearly every page of the 2023 NEC® and includes explanations, applications, and examples. More than 1,900 photos are included. It is used most often by apprentices in the IEC program, but also by journeyman and master electricians and inspectors. It shows people what the rules are and how to satisfy those rules.
Changes to the National Electrical Code® 2023 NEC® Edition PowerPoints
Created with the instructor in mind, each slide includes expanded examples from A Complete Guide to the 2023 NEC® Changes. Instructors can pick and choose the slides they need for their classes from more than 1,000 slides. Minimal text is included on slides as Ryan wants the viewer to be listening to the instructor. Non-instructors purchase as well to help themselves through understanding the changes.
The above, as well as the National Electrical Code 2023 (National Fire Protection Association), are available through the IEC Training Advantage Bookstore.