20 to Watch: Women in HVAC - Yijun "Melody" Wang
Mechanical engineer/energy analyst, Affiliated Engineers Inc.
Name: Yijun “Melody” Wang
Title: Mechanical engineer/energy analyst, Affiliated Engineers Inc.
Educational Experience: B.S. in architectural engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, graduated with high distinction.
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: P.E. in California and Florida, LEED AP BD+C, and WELL AP.
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE associate member; presented at ASHRAE/CIBSE Technical Symposium 2016 in Loughborough, U.K., with topic “university campus renovation case study; and ASHRAE Region XII Technology Award 2017 for the Matherly Hall Renovation.
When did you fall in love with engineering?
Growing up, I was interested in math and science as well as creative arts. I have exceled in both areas through school and figured that architecture is the career path that combines my two areas of interests. Later, I realized I would prefer more mathematical and analytical tasks presented in my career path, and right there I found architectural engineering. During college, my passion of engineering grew with through immersion with a group of like-minded students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. My alma mater’s collaborative and project-based approach strengthened my problem-solving skills with real-life experience. In my sophomore year, we competed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Solar Decathlon competition and showcased our solar energy-powered house in China. It was a yearlong experience with a lot of sweat, tears, challenges, and growth. Through all of that I fell in love with engineering.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
As an engineer in the construction sector, I’m always working on projects that require collaboration. Some days I learn about material science and the type of experiments my clients conduct to better understand their needs, while other days I research historical buildings and their design challenges. The diversity of knowledge that I am exposed to is truly rewarding. On the other side, I get to educate our clients about high performance building designs, and how to maximize their facility efficiency.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
Engineering is a male-dominant profession, which makes it difficult for young female engineers to find female role models they can relate to. It takes courage and resilience for women to be in this profession and demonstrate their capabilities.
Describe what your job entails on a day-to-day basis.
My job as a mechanical engineer at Affiliated Engineers is both challenging and rewarding. My daily tasks depend on the project progress I’m working on. Some days I’ll be doing analytical tasks and detailed calculations, some days I will be on-site for a progress walk through a facility and conduct field surveys. My company has also supported my on-going, continuous education.
What drives/motivates you every day?
My husband, family, coworkers, and friends offer tremendous support for me to fulfill my career.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
When I passed my P.E. exam on the first try after studying for three months.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t done yet?
I would like to be involved in projects that I haven’t worked on before, such as airports and super skyscrapers. I would also like to be involved in projects back in China and use my bilingual skills.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
As an odd side job, my dad worked as an HVAC technician for a short while in his 20s. So, I guess this line of work runs in the family.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
There are so many STEM teachers in my life who made an impressions on my career.
1) Mr. James Walker at St Paul Prep, who taught me all the fun with calculus and statistics. To this day I can still nerd out on those two subjects.
2) The faculty group at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who taught me the excitement of problem solving and analytical thinking. Through countless projects and finals, they made me think, “Wow, this engineering thing is getting real.”
3) John Swift, my former principal at Cannon Design, who hired me on as a mechanical engineering intern at Cannon and helped me to learn my trades from real life projects.
4) Marc LeBrun, who brought me on board to the science and technology group at Affiliated Engineers and offered leadership and guidance through the last four years.
5) Tyler Dykes, who manages me inside the S&T group. He shared his professional knowledge selflessly and has been a great mentor and role model to look up to.
6) My colleagues, conference speakers, and professional society acquaintances who I’ve crossed path with showed me the remarkable talent and exciting future of the industry.
What does the future hold for you?
I plan to continue work on exciting projects at Affiliated Engineers and develop my project engineering skill set. Meanwhile, I’m looking into enrolling into a graduate school program online.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
I heard this from one of the ASHRAE conference presenter: half of the building occupants are females; therefore, we need more female HVAC engineers to help us understand their perspective. Be proud of yourself for entering the field, as you are an asset that offers different viewpoints to your colleagues.