Name/Title/Company: Nancy Simoneau, CEO, Group Simoneau

Age: 55

Educational Experience: HEC of Montreal, Alumni of London Business School

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Certified public accountant (CPA)

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Young President Organization (YPO), member of QG100, Businesswomen of the year in Quebec in 2016, trainer at the entrepreneurship school for the emerging entrepreneur (EEB), chairwomen of the board of regional investment found of Montreal FTQ, vice-chair of QG100, vice-chair of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA), and co-chair of the YNG LBS (YPO) program

What does your day-to-day job entail?

My daily job entails leading and inspiring a team of leaders in managing an industrial boiler fabrication, service, and rental business. Simoneau is based in four different locations in Quebec, Ontario, and the Midwest of U.S. I find it very important to meet my managers locally and get in touch with the needs of our clients regionally.

As a proud ambassador of our brand, I play an important role in promoting our product-innovation and energy-transition solutions to our clients. I often accompany our sales director and our sales team in preparing business proposals and meeting clients. I find it very insightful to get direct feedback from our clients.

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

Engineering is a passion that drives the vision at Simoneau. My love for engineering was confirmed in 1996, when Simoneau acquired the engineering firm Thermodesign. This company’s lead engineer not only became a dear colleague but a true mentor who showed me the infinite possibilities of innovative engineering in everything we do.

What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?

I find it rewarding when innovation becomes a patented technology that solves an everyday problem for our clients. Three of my proudest engineering moments include developing an integrated economizer in our Maverick steam boilers, delivering a retractable convection tubes bundles component in our high-temperature watertube generator Warden, and imagining a low-profile A-Type configuration for the rental industry called Nomad.

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?

In my case, the first challenge was to prove the previous owner’s daughter can rise to the challenge and become the new owner and president. I had to convince my father to invest in fabricating our own boilers. I struggled to set higher standards in engineering and in overall management and had to show character to all employees to get their engagement and to lead them with my female energy.

The main challenge for women today is to establish our own vision and get recognized as equal talents without necessarily being compared to the previous establishment. As women, we believe in including both women and men equally into the process and putting an end to unnecessary and unjustified discrimination.

We can encourage more women to become boiler engineers by first showing them it is possible and then reminding them they can set their own rules and not only follow in the footsteps of previous engineers. To achieve all the above and more, we need the support of our male colleagues, as they are our best allies in this entire process. The good thing is that many of them have raised strong and ambitious daughters.

How many years have you been active in the engineering sector? What’s changed the most in that time? What’s changed the least?

I have been active since 1994, the year we started manufacturing boilers. For me, the foundation of engineering has not changed. We design with customers’ needs in mind. The fundamental change comes with the possibilities that new connected technology provides us to fast-track our designs; provide more precision concepts; and, most importantly, imagine more energy-efficient constructions.

You’re currently the vice-chair of ABMA. Tell us about this association and the role it plays in your career.

The ABMA plays an important role for all of us who chose a career as boilermakers. By promoting innovative trends and safe practices, enabling market growth, and caring for current and future talents, ABMA inspires a generation of boilermakers. For me, it has been a key factor in establishing a U.S. presence for Simoneau and understanding the specificities of this market.

You’re quoted as saying, “Innovation is the key to evolution.” How are you applying this mantra to the boiler industry, which is in a state of flux amidst the push for electrification/decarbonization.

As an entrepreneur, I believe innovation is an antidote to status quo. And accepting status quo is not an option. I had a vision in 1994 to create energy-efficient and ecofriendly boilers to ensure the wellbeing of our future generations. The path was not easy. This vision helped me to convince my colleagues, search for the right engineering solution, be resilient in waiting for some new combustion technology, choosing to invest large sums in research and development, etc. Our mantra is a new technology for a known application or a new application with a known product. Without this mantra, I could not go through the long and hard process of innovation.

What drives/motivates you every day?

The humanity of people.

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

Continue to evolve our product line at a rapid paste to integrate new combustion technology and find ways to upcycle older technology into cleaner and safer equipment.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

My Peloton nickname is BOILER MASTER.

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

Réjean Gauthier, my business partner and engineer who shared the ambition of innovating boiler fabrication, walked me through every single aspect of boiler engineering making me imagine new business possibilities for Simoneau.

My father saw things in me that I couldn’t dare seeing. From a young age, he pushed me to be around people from all around the world. He gave me room to voice my opinions since I was 5 years old. Today, I am grateful to have the possibility to work with clients and partners from every part of our planet.

My grandmother put a spell on me by saying to me, many times, that I was born at the right time because women will have their place in the business world and that I will be a great businesswoman.

And my mother, who gave me her empathy. I am so grateful that she had the strength to push me by not telling me what I wanted to hear but, instead, to become the best version of myself.

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

Your resilience as a woman makes you the best candidate for engineering your way to build a better world. We need you, but, most importantly, we want you on our team! We have a lot of work in front of us. Transiting and pivoting this industry to be in harmony with nature is a big challenge. I trust, with the energy of both genders, we will get somewhere.