Officials at Trane get excited about engineering because it allows employees to do things nobody has ever done before. For Kristin Sullivan, senior engineering manager in La Crosse, Wisconsin, leading her team to take on new challenges, and finding creative ways to solve them, is just a great day at the office.
In the manufacturing industry, everything starts with engineering, and Lindsay D’Albani is one of Trane’s best. D’Albani is a senior test engineer in Clarksville, Tennessee, and loves her engineering career at Trane because it’s flexible, interesting, and collaborative. Engineered Systems is proud to partner with Trane to share these two women’s success stories.
Kristin Sullivan: Embracing Her Inner Leader
During college at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, Kristin Sullivan was interning at an automobile parts company, specializing in drive shafts and axles, when a manager told her: “They say, the meek will inherit the Earth.” For a shy woman in an industry where shyness isn’t generally rewarded, this was a wakeup call.
“He told me that I worked really hard, and that was good, but it would be okay if I talked every once in a while,” said Sullivan. “It made me realize my shyness was holding me back.”
Sullivan approached the problem the way an engineer would, by embracing the best tools to succeed. She signed up for extracurricular activities at her college and was eventually elected student body vice president.
“I came to Trane and progressed in my career,” she said. “And I don't think people are describing me as meek. I don't feel like I'm shy anymore. I haven't been for a long time.”
Kettering University is historically linked to educating engineers for the automotive industry, but when Sullivan graduated in 2008, the job market was worse than thin. She was initially surprised to find herself at an HVAC company, but she soon found entirely new challenges she never anticipated.
“The automotive industry is high-volume, but there’s not a lot of variation in the products,” she said. “When you come to Trane as an engineer, you're dealing with a lot of variety. One person might be supporting very different product lines from project to project. It's a different application of engineering.”
Sullivan has been with Trane for 13 years and leads a team of nine engineers working on scroll compressors for Trane Commercial HVAC and Thermo King refrigerated transport products. The team conducts mechanical development for scroll compressors made by Trane. She enjoys the complexity of solving problems and developing novel applications.
“We have challenging problems that we get to solve using data,” said Sullivan. “I think all engineers learn that in school, and when we come into the workplace, the problems get increasingly challenging. We get to solve them as a team to make better products and have a positive impact on the world.”
Right now, Sullivan and her team are working on developing compressors for next-generation refrigerants and for expanded heat pump applications. She enjoys the technical challenge, and the broader goal: greater energy sustainability.
“There’s a diversity and complexity of products that we’re supporting, and that’s exciting and interesting,” she said. “There's no way we get stuck doing the same thing day to day. One of the things that’s special about Trane is the sense of optimism here combined with the collaborative nature of our teams and the desire for technical excellence. We do really good engineering work. We do things right.”
Over the years, Trane has strongly supported Sullivan’s development. She participated in the Women’s Leadership Program in 2018, which she believes helped her become more comfortable as a leader and a woman engineer. These are the kinds of lessons she likes to pass on.
“I advise young women that, if they are ambitious, to be really clear about their ambitions,” said Sullivan. “People assume young men are ambitious, but they don’t necessarily assume the same thing about young women. Women can get passed over if they're not clear about what they want.”
Lindsay D’Albani: Playing to Her Strengths
Lindsay D’Albani spent six years in the U.S. Army, where she was a flight engineer on Chinook, CH-47D helicopters, before she enrolled in college.
“I wouldn't trade my time in the military for anything,” said D’Albani. “It really helped shape me into the person I am, and I learned a lot about responsibility and teamwork.”
After the Army, D’Albani attended Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, not far from where she had been stationed at Fort Campbell. She studied a lot of different things – nursing, economics, accounting – but had trouble finding a good fit. Then she tried engineering.
“We had an engineering technology program and it just felt right to me,” said D’Albani. “It was the most engaging class I had taken; I just wanted to learn more. It combines tasks I really enjoy: problem-solving, hands-on work, and collaborating with a team.”
Soon after graduating, D’Albani started at Trane in the electrical design team for the unitary product lines. Almost immediately, she sensed the camaraderie and teamwork she enjoyed so much in the Army. Seven years later, she moved to the Trane Design Lab, in Clarksville, Tennessee, where she is now senior test engineer.
“I've transitioned into the lab, and it’s provided the opportunity to learn more about the entire unit,” said D’Albani. “Before, I was focused on the electrical subsystem, harnesses, and components. Now, I get to learn a lot more about the refrigeration, gas and electric heat, airflow, and cabinet subsystems.”
To some degree, the lab is like a playground for D’Albani, where she can apply different testing technologies to diagnose and fix a wide range of issues.
“I really enjoy troubleshooting,” she said. “When we have a problem and there might not be a clear solution, but we have to figure it out; we have to deliver.”
For the lab team, ensuring quality is the most important thing they do. Delivering accurate data helps internal customers make the appropriate design tweaks to produce the best possible products. D’Albani gets a lot of satisfaction from playing a part in a larger number of projects as well as jumping in to help out whenever needed.
“I get to work on almost every Unitary project now, where before I would work on a single project for over a year,” she said.
While D’Albani also recognizes that being a woman in a male-dominated field can present challenges, she doesn’t let it distract her.
“I've always felt it didn't matter whether people saw me as a woman or Asian or anything they might use to define me,” she said. “This was what I wanted to do, and I wasn't going to let anybody stop me.”
As she grew with Trane, D’Albani began to take advantage of company resources, joining employee resource groups and other team-building activities. Recently, she has been embracing training opportunities to boost diverse hiring.
She’s learned that a strong hiring process makes it easier to choose the best person for the job, and having a diverse pool is a big part of that equation. In turn, having a wider variety of people and ideas just make the job better.
“The diversity here is incredible,” said D’Albani. “There are so many backgrounds, and I get to interact with people from different locations across the world.”
After eight years at Trane, she loves testing herself against each new challenge and enjoys being part of a team, particularly one that shares a common mission.
“Everybody wants to do things the right way and safely, even if it's not the easiest way,” said D’Albani. “Trane emphasizes the same values I’ve always had, like integrity, honesty, and perseverance. It makes me proud to work for this company.”