Name:Jane Sidebottom

Title: President and Founder, Applied Marketing Knowledge

Age: 54

Educational Experience: Bachelor’s degree and graduate courses in international business, University of Maryland; leadership development program, Center for Creative Leadership

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Member and mentor, Women in HVAC; 11 patent awards for Carrier split system designs (2006-2007); co-creator of the Career Smart Platform, Consulting-Specifying Engineer (CSE) magazine; and an independent director, Friedrich Air Conditioning

 

What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?

My dad was a mechanical engineer, involved in the early days of the U.S. Space Program. He was responsible for facilities management of the tracking and communications stations around the world and took us with him whenever possible. He led facilities commissioning and startup of King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, where I lived for four years. I was exposed at a very early age to not just engineering but facilities design, commissioning, and operations. While, today, I love the design aspects, I remain equally fascinated with moving design to successful operation.

 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?

I believe the source of innovation for the HVAC industry often resides with the trades. They are the ones, every day, who make the design intent work. Whenever possible, I am in the field, watching them work and getting their perspective on delivering a better result for the end user. Their input was invaluable to the redesign of Carrier’s split system product line (and all of those patents) in 2006.

 

Describe the proudest moment in your career.

There are two and it is hard to choose:

  • The patent awards at Carrier. I am not an engineer and to be awarded patent credit for the new split system designs was beyond my imagination; and
     
  • Being selected for the independent board of director position at Friedrich. Boards in this industry are very male-dominated.

 

What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?

Throughout my career, I have seen the professional environment improve for women in the industry. I am encouraged every day with the increased number of female professionals at every level. But there are still hurdles to overcome, especially in helping women navigate the communication styles and differing approaches to leadership between men and women. Women can be more intuitive and strategic. In a tactical industry, such as HVAC, they may often struggle. I find that women have to work harder to gain credibility, which can impact confidence. Balancing self-awareness, adaptability, and resiliency takes work and professional support. I had a very sparse number of female role models in the industry to emulate. I tried mirroring the style of my male colleagues, which resulted in personal insults and being put in my place. Some quality time with an executive coach helped me become more self-aware and confident in my own style. It made a huge difference in my development and is why I am so passionate about supporting the leadership/career development of others.

 

Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?

I am the aunt to two 18-year-old nieces. Both are extremely bright and hardworking students, but they’re completely intimidated by math. Just about every engineer I know has told me that they became an engineer because they were good at math and were steered in that direction. I think we need to make math less intimidating in middle and high school and show young women they don’t need to be math wizards to have successful careers in technical fields. While women have historically been steered into marketing and support roles in the HVAC industry, some of today’s most successful sales professionals and business leaders are women. There is huge opportunity in service and facilities management to help engineers translate their value.

 

What does your day-to-day job entail?

No two hours, much less days, are alike. I work with a number of clients to address their business growth needs. On any given day, myself and the AMK team can be working on multiple client projects. For example, today, I will be providing sales and marketing leadership to an exciting company in North Dakota that supplies products to the energy industry, working on product management training curriculum for an established manufacturer, creating design value propositions for a new water-heating concept, and establishing a sales strategy and channel development plan for an energy benchmarking company. Since we don’t have a “one size fits all” approach to identify and developing client growth, each of our client assignments is different, which I love.

 

What drives/motivates you every day?

The opportunity to do what I love: helping our clients and colleagues deliver results. Throughout my career, I have been incredibly motivated by helping engineers deliver business results envisioned with new products, helping a sales professionals successfully articulate and deliver business value, and helping business leaders accomplish strategic growth goals. As a business owner myself, I am so proud of the high-quality work the AMK team delivers every day.

 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?

In both cases, we have been fortunate — the impact at this point has been minimal. COVID has grounded me from travel, and I am feeling deprived of the energy that comes from the in-person engagement with our clients and team. We didn’t have to adapt to the virtual aspects — we have been successfully using those methods for years. But nothing can replace the energy of in-person collaboration, especially when it comes to strategic planning, sales planning, and innovation brainstorming. We are anticipating an impact from the economic conditions, as our clients continue to navigate the COVID and economic conditions.

 

What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

My professional bucket list got discarded when I started AMK. The opportunities our clients have presented us have far surpassed anything that was on that list. I would like to explore other corporate board positions, continue to grow AMK within and outside the HVAC industry, and continue to highlight the career path for non-engineers in this industry.

 

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

When I was 3 years old, I was in the control room at Goddard Space Flight Center for the launch of Apollo 11. It is one of my earliest memories, and I remain a total space geek to this day.

 

List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.

These individuals were/are not just amazing mentors, but friends. Fred Berger, former chairman of Louis Berger International, passed away in 2015. Fred was my first mentor and helped me develop confidence and the business development skills I still rely on today. He always made time for me and taught me how to be tough but gracious in negotiations. To this day, whenever I see someone with a bowtie, I think of him. How I would love to have one more conversation with him. John Suzukida, former vice president of Trane, gave me my first job at Trane. He patiently steered me through all the dumb mistakes young professionals make and has guided and supported all my critical professional moves to this day. He continues to show me how rewarding it is to support the success of others as well as how that support delivers a superior outcome every time. Jim Schultz, the former president of Trane, provided sponsorship for my career advancement. He successfully demonstrated the servant-leader business style and showed me how to create an environment where individuals and teams could be successful. He also bestowed upon me an appreciation for good scotch.

 

What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?

  • Find a mentor who can relate to your desired career path and work with that mentor to have a development plan to guide both your development and decision-making;
     
  • Be patient and hone your skills. Confidence comes from not just doing something well once but doing it well every time; and
     
  • Build a network of peers and sponsors to help you learn and advance.

There are opportunities for success in this field for non-engineers too!