20 to Watch: Women in HVAC - Liz Haggerty
Vice president and general manager, ducted systems, Johnson Controls Inc.
Name: Liz Haggerty
Title: Vice president and general manager, ducted systems, Johnson Controls Inc.
Educational Experience: B.S. metallurgical engineering – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, M.S. Metallurgy – University of Connecticut, and MBA – University of Connecticut.
Professional Credentials/Accreditations, Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) board of directors, Industry Week Top Women in Manufacturing – Oct. 2017.
When did you fall in love with engineering?
I’ve always had an interest in science and math, even as a young girl. I wanted to know how things worked and wanted to fix things when they were broken. I’ve also always been up to the challenge of solving problems. In the end, that is really what engineering is – finding solutions to problems.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
The most rewarding part of my career in engineering has been the ability to make a difference, whether it be creating a new product to meet a customer’s need, investigating and solving a problem with an existing product, or sharing my knowledge to teach others in the organization.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
This is a very male-dominated profession, so women have to work harder to show their knowledge and build credibility in this profession. You have to be willing to speak up, have thick skin as you will be challenged to prove yourself, and be comfortable with being in a room that doesn’t look like you. I think the ratio of women to men in engineering is much better today than it was when I entered engineering school, but we still need to do more to show young girls that a career in engineering can be exciting and provide many different opportunities. Retention of women in engineering is also a challenge that has to be solved, as many women who start their careers in engineering leave to pursue other interests if they don’t have a positive experience in the workforce. We have to make sure the work environment is inclusive and supportive of women in engineering through focused mentoring and sponsorship.
Describe what your job entails on a day-to-day basis.
My job changes every day…that is what I love about running a business. One day I’m working with the teams on our product development roadmap, another day I am spending time with customers learning about their markets and how to enable them to win with our products, and on other days I’m working with the manufacturing team or marketing team on our five-year strategy. That is what I love about HVAC, I can use my technical background in different capacities every day and make a difference in making the world a more comfortable place.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I am motivated by making a difference and wanting to help my team win. I can do that through being a leader of my team as well as being a leader in the HVAC industry.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I’ve had a lot of great moments in my career, but I think the moments I’m most proud of have been those when I’ve led a team through what seemed like unsurmountable obstacles and have been able to achieve a successful outcome. There are two of these that stick in my mind. One was green-fielding a business in 120 days when the incumbent provider decided to make a shift in suppliers. The team came together and stood up a business that allowed us to successfully launch in a new marketplace and meet our customer’s needs. The other was when a major component supplier abruptly left the market, and my team had to qualify a new supplier in one-third the normal time and not miss a customer commitment. Seeing employees rise to the occasion in these types of situations is what makes me the proudest as a leader.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t done yet?
I don’t’ really have anything else on my engineering bucket list per se. I just want to be able to continue to support engineers and most importantly continue to support female engineers though mentoring and sponsorship.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I love interior design. In my free time I love to binge watch HGTV. I get ideas for remodeling and redecorating my house.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
I’ve had several mentors across my career — most of them informally, as many I have learned from without even realizing it until later in my career. The one person who I would say had the most profound impact on me was John Rostas, vice president of quality at Carrier and was my leader at a very pivotal and early point in my career. I had just started managing people, and I was running a critically important, relatively new global continuous improvement program. John really functioned more as a sponsor for me, making sure I got exposure to the most senior people in the organization, supporting me in my work but allowing me to interface with senior leadership and then providing constructive feedback along the way. He gave me coaching on leading people and allowing them to shine in their work as well. He also had a zest for life and taught me it’s okay to have fun at work. I have tried to mirror those same leadership traits as I have grown in my career.
What does the future hold for you?
I really don’t know what the future holds for me. I have found that if I try to guess it’s never usually what happens. Life is not linear, so I have stopped guessing. What I do know is that if I work hard and perform, opportunities present themselves to me. I just want to always find new challenges and ways to give back and make a difference.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
My advice to prospective female engineers is to have an open mind. The possibilities of what you can do with an engineering degree are endless, especially in the HVAC industry. You can apply your degree in manufacturing, design, product management, sales, etc. It’s really dependent on what you want to do and even that can change over time. I am a perfect example of that. My other advice would be to build a network full of other engineers and female professionals. That network many times is what allows you to be exposed to other career opportunities as well as career and life-balance strategies.