Title: Vice President, Business Development, ClimateCraft
Educational Experience: Bachelor of engineering science in chemical engineering (BESc), a bachelor’s degree in economics from Western University, and an MBA from University of St. Thomas – Opus College of Business
Professional Credentials/Accreditations:Professional engineer (P.E.)
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE member
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I’ve always loved science, starting way back when I was in grade school. I’ve always enjoyed learning how things work. My brother is an engineer, too, and he had a similar passion. My mother often tells the story of how my brother wanted to know how a toaster worked, so he started by measuring its temperature using an oral mercury thermometer (that’s what we used back then). Ultimately, he destroyed the toaster and the thermometer. I was a little more afraid of my parents, so, when I took things apart to figure out how they worked, I also had to figure out how to put them back together to cover my tracks! I think taking things apart and putting them back together turned into my passion for engineering.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
For me, it has always come down to solving real-world problems. There is nothing like walking through a manufacturing facility and looking at all the problems we are solving or working with a customer who has problems and solving them one by one. There are countless times I’ve been working with new or existing customers when I’m super curious about how their business works and what their drivers are and then focus on how we can solve any headaches they may have. Sometimes, a customer just needs to get new equipment installed, and it is about logistics and making sure we deliver on time. Other times, they have a specific performance issue, and we find a solution that solves that problem — sometimes those issues center on energy efficiency, sometimes it’s IAQ, and other times it’s something else.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
One team I worked with was no longer motivated. I recognized it very early on and worked over a period of 18 months to improve the team dynamics by hiring new talent and cross-training throughout the department. One day, I looked out of my office and saw team members walking over to other cubicles, offering to help. I saw individuals gathered together over a table, looking at plans to solve a problem. I realized that this situation no longer required my intervention, nor did I have to intervene on every problem that needed solving. I was just in awe at what we had accomplished together. Things only continued to get better. Several staff members took what they had learned out into the field and gave lunch and learn presentations, something they wouldn’t have been ready to do months earlier. It made me realize we can pass along our knowledge and help the individuals within the team, and the team as a whole, succeed.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?
I think the most common challenge is being heard. I can recall being in a meeting where we were discussing a problem and I made a suggestion. The next speaker continued on and on. Then, about 15 minutes later, another person spoke up and said exactly what I had stated previously. Knowing the person as well as I did, I joked, “You mean we should do what I suggested about 15 minutes ago?” The person said, “You didn’t say that,” and about three people in the room chimed in and said, “Um, actually, she did.” But you can’t let that get to you. I spend a lot of time learning how organizations work and who listens to whom. I use that knowledge to make sure I’m heard. I recently read that if you are explaining something new to a group and they have no context, they need to hear it seven times to absorb it. As a result, I often think about how many times I’ve tried to explain it and make sure I’ve done so at least seven times. Or, I work to incorporate an example they do have the experience with so that I can give them a way to understand, acknowledge, or store that information. I think the best way to increase the number of women in engineering is to start early and provide them mentors. While a large portion of my graduating class was female, many of them didn’t enter engineering professions right away. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think if more females had been available to help show them how to make the transition from school to engineering, it may have been easier. Personally, I wanted to combine my technical and nontechnical skills and I didn’t know about all the career options around sales, product management, etc., that really allowed me to combine the two. A mentor would have been super helpful to me.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
My role is about leading my team to succeed in solving problems for our customers both today and in the future. ClimateCraft sells custom air handlers, but, in the end, each customer has a need when they come to us for our products. Our roles are about solving those problems, whether it be getting new air handlers shipped and installed on time, improving IAQ, improving thermal comfort, or providing a system for a new building. Either way, understanding our customers’ needs and solving them today, or coming up with new products for future needs, is what we do together as a team every day.
What drives/motivates you every day?
The people I work with. Every day, I get to work with some of the most talented people in the industry, whether it’s at work, where we are solving things for our customers, or on the ASHRAE committees I’m a part of.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
Personally, I have really struggled with COVID-19. My family is located in Canada, and, with the border closed, I have no ability to visit or provide support other than through the phone and video, which just isn’t the same. For our team, we like being out visiting our customers or hosting them at our facility, and COVID-19 has not allowed that to happen. So, we had to change that up. Fairly early on, I encouraged our team to use their video cameras during our meetings to help build connections with each other, since we couldn’t meet face to face. I don’t think anyone really likes using the video cameras, but convincing them to use them early on meant that when the time came to do so with customers, people had gotten over their fears. We even had some fun with it as we got to meet everyone’s pets and talk about their office backgrounds. Everyone has a story, and we’ve made time for everyone to share those stories. In fact, after one particularly difficult week, we hosted a catch-up meeting where we just shared what we did over the weekend. One employee had painted some new art, another had refinished a table, one shared the results of a successful hunt, and another had completed some landscaping work. I think that sharing helps bring us all closer, even if we can’t physically be together right now. Though, if we voted, I’m sure everyone would prefer for COVID to be over so we could get back to visiting with our customers and team members.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
Every day, I encounter new problems in life that I would like to see solved. I would love to take some of those problems and invent a product to solve them.
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What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I played on a varsity women’s rugby team during university.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
I learn from so many people it is hard to pick just one, but, if I had to, it would be my first boss who hired me into the industry, Hugh Crowther. He is such a knowledgeable engineer and I spent a lot of time learning from him. He taught me to not just look at the individual parts but to step back and look at the whole system. It really grounded me in how I approach not only technical problems but business problems as well. Many times, you see the symptoms but unless you step back and look at the whole, you often can’t solve the problem. He also set me up to succeed on my own and develop my own area of expertise. Finally, he got me involved in ASHRAE, and that volunteer experience further developed me as a person and an engineer. I’ve been able to learn from so many talented engineers across the globe due to my involvement with ASHRAE. The work we’ve done together has been rewarding.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Keep up the urgency in knowing that things need to change, but have the patience to know that change takes time. Try to have the sense and maturity to know the difference.