Two years ago, I walked into a meeting of a philosophy discussion group and found myself embroiled in a debate that changed my life. However, it wasn’t the topic that was so transformative — it was someone who happened to be listening, and approached me afterward.

She introduced herself as Erika, and then she said something I could hardly believe. “Do you have a job?” she asked. “Because you’ve got just the kind of analytical mind we’re looking for.”

“We,” as it turned out, meant Pool & Spa News, and the woman I met was, of course, Erika Taylor, who’s been my editor, my mentor and — I’m proud to say — my friend throughout the time I’ve worked here.

That time, however, is drawing to a close. This month, I’m departing from Pool & Spa News to pursue other projects, leaving behind an industry filled with wonderful people, exciting events and all sorts of other fond memories.

More than anything else, I think what I loved the most was the continual encouragement to keep learning, and the never-ending opportunities to soak up new knowledge. I remember calling my mom during my first week on the job, to say, “I can’t believe they’re actually paying me to study science!”

I often felt the same way at trade shows such as the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo , where I could hardly contain my excitement as I rushed from seminar to seminar, soaking up presentations by the industry’s leading chemists, biologists and electrical engineers — and in classes such as the National Plasterers Counci l start-up certification course, where, despite never having touched a test kit before, I still managed to make the grade.

This is an industry that loves to learn — not just for the sake of soaking up facts, but to ask more informed questions, to skeptically analyze existing data and conduct independent experiments. It’s an industry full of active debate — not about abstract ideas, but about practical techniques and in-the-field experiences. And it’s an industry that’s eager to embrace new technologies — as long as they prove themselves in the real world.

For all those reasons and more, my decision to move on wasn’t an easy one. Still, it’s not with a heavy heart that I leave, but with the excitement of knowing there’s a whole world out there, full of new discoveries just waiting to be explored.