Name: Kimberly Llewellyn
Title: Emerging Markets, Senior Product Manager, Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US
Educational Experience: Bachelor's Degree from Vassar College; Master Degree in Environmental Engineering from Columbia University
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Voting member of ASHRAE’s Technical Standard Committees 62.2 (Residential Ventilation and Acceptable IAQ) and 227P (Passive Building Design); Voting Member of the ICC Off-Site Construction Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Standard Consensus Committee; PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC); ACCA Manual S Working Group Member; and Advisory Capacity to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office initiatives, which Focus on Modular Construction, Low-Load Buildings, and Advanced Construction Technologies.
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ACHR NEWS Top Women in HVAC Award, 2021
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
Family legend has it that, at age 3, I begged for a windup ballerina doll for Christmas. I took her apart and, once I understood how she turned around, never played with her again. Later, as a young adult, I literally couldn't sleep at night for worrying about unbridled resource consumption and waste generation. It motivated me to go back to school for environmental engineering. I find contributing to the development of solutions that are equitable; practical; and result in healthy, efficient buildings to be very satisfying.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
I have two. The No. 1 is when my two teenage boys see a building and recognize how it was built inefficiently or ineffectively. We’ll often be driving down the highway, and one of them will point out a development that was built without intention. The work I do is also for them, and it's really important they realize the choices we make today impact their future built environment.
Secondly, in 2020, I was part of the project team that developed the Credit Human Headquarters (a regional credit union) in San Antonio. This building is a true testament of what teamwork and low-impact, sustainable development should look like. Every system, every material of the building was thoughtfully considered and selected to minimize (or generate) energy. It’s just an amazing building.
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?
The reality is, we need to increase everyone working in HVACR — there is a labor shortage. That said, women are often faced with preconceived notions about who should take care of infrastructure. Stereotypes are difficult to break, and the biggest challenge might be our internalization of beliefs around what we can/can't or should/shouldn't do. As women, the best thing we can do is show up unapologetically and confident in our skill sets and interests. If you’re determined and hardworking, I find people are generally accepting — it’s about finding allies, not adversaries.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
My job is truly a hybrid role — every day can look a little different. I mainly work in three areas: actively supporting product development; project management for specialty, high-performance applications; and engaging with the industry through training. On any given day, I could be supporting the project contractor/architecture/engineering team with technical guidance, contributing to a standards committee meeting, or working with our products team on the next generation of mechanical systems.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I hold the belief that we must be better stewards of our resources. I genuinely feel like I’m fighting for a better future for my sons with the work I do. We owe it to the next generation. In addition, I love working with like-spirited people toward a similar goal — that’s what gets me up in the morning.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
It has made me more grateful for my health and the health of my family and loved ones. Professionally, it has made my work with IAQ, IEQ, and ventilation loads more relevant.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I want to continue contributing to the evolution of our industry. Specifically, I want more professionals to value experiential field knowledge more equitably. I think this is the key to getting more skilled trades into the industry. We need to realize there’s a wealth of knowledge that can only come from field experience. When combined with traditional training and education, we can truly advance the products we make and the buildings we develop.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
After graduating from Vassar College, I studied theater in Russia and waited tables in New York City before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering at Columbia University.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
My dad served as my first mentor. He was an engineer and a do-it-yourselfer; every weekend, we worked on repairs and projects. My mother and grandmothers are models of insatiable intellect and adventurous spirit. I also consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be supported, mentored, and befriended by a number of building science, construction, and HVAC legends including Gary Klein, Joe Lstiburek, Betsy Pettit, Lew Harriman, Peter Marciano, Armin Rudd, Katrin Klingenberg, Kristof Irwin, and Brett Dillon, to name a few. Their generosity with their knowledge continues to contribute profoundly to my understanding of our built environment. I hope I never take this for granted.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Women need to support other women. Secondly, we are master problem-solvers and logistic mavens; HVAC and construction fields require this type of thinking. If you believe in the work and you love it, you can do it.
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