20 to Watch: Women in HVAC - Rachel L. Romero
P.E., energy engineer III, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Name: Rachel L. Romero
Title: P.E., energy engineer III, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Educational Experience: Master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder; and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Hope College.
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: P.E. in Colorado.
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Hope College 10 Under 10 Alumni Award, 2019; ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award, 2019; ASHRAE New Faces of Engineering, 2016; and ASHRAE 2016 YEA Award of Individual Excellence.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I fell in love with engineering because it was the application of math and science in a real-world way. Engineering truly impacts the world around you.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
The industry is innovating and open to try to innovate
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I received the ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award after nine years of membership within the society. The organization recognized my hard work of encouraging young engineers to stay in an aging industry.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?
Personally, right now, I am facing the challenge of being a successful engineer in conjunction with early parenthood. It’s easy to see why so many leave the industry in their middle career, and it’s even easier to see why they might not return. The bar for returning to work is high if you don’t stay in the industry. On the other hand, engineers tend to be passionate about their work, which makes us passionate about being great moms too. It’s especially hard when you need to travel. We need to be aware of this and ensure that women have the ability to be great engineer moms.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
My job entails working with Smart Lab Accelerator partners to improve the energy efficiency and safety in their laboratories, primarily through addressing ventilation issues. I also lead the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, a student design competition for zero energy ready buildings. Right now, we are ensuring teams have the right resources for their design, recruiting sponsors, and answering questions about their projects.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I am driven by my faith that requires me to take care of the planet that God has given us, a desire to encourage the next generation, and the practicality that we could be running our buildings better.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I would love to be a director of a program someday. I am still defining what this is.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I am a Division III All-American Swimmer.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
Sheila Hayter encouraged me to be involved in the industry to both support my growth and the growth of others.
Chris Mathis, who gives me sage advice on handling difficult situations, also encourages me to look at problems from all sides.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Find a strong female mentor to advocate for you, recommend you for activities, and help guide your career.