Synergy is honored to spotlight nine women for Women in Construction Week this year! Read on to learn a little bit more about these amazing women.
1. Tell us about your background:
- Angie Simon (Western Allied): I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering with the option of Solar Energy and HVAC. I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and one year later I took my second job with Western Allied. I started as a young project manager which is where I really learned what HVAC construction was. I progressed well at Western Allied and was thrilled that they offered me partnership in the company after about eight years. In 2008 I was named the next President of Western Allied. The same year I joined the National Board of Directors for SMACNA (and much to my surprise found out that in 60 years they had never had a woman on this board)! After spending four years on the National Board for SMACNA, I eventually joined the Executive Committee as a Vice President. I worked my way through the chairs and in 2019 became the first ever women president. The presidential term is normally a one-year term however when COVID hit they extended my term to a two year term. I am now the Immediate Past President of National SMACNA.
- Cherice Greenway (Prairie Mechanical): I have been the service manager at Prairie for about four years now. I have worked in the industry for over 21 years now. I’ve been a dispatcher, a preventative maintenance salesperson, a project manager, and now service manager.
- Jessika Bell (Cooper Oates): I took my first position in the HVAC industry with Cooper Oates Air Conditioning seven years ago. I began as the Service Dispatcher (Coordinator), quickly moved to the department CSR, and eventually landed in my current position as the Service Department Operations Manager. I also oversee the field technicians with the guidance of our Technical Support Team (Technical Specialist, Field Supervisor, Senior Technicians).
- Angela Greiner (CCAC): Most of my background is in sales and marketing. About eight years ago I stumbled into the HVAC industry. I am currently the VP of Commercial Service. I manage our Customer Service department, Billing department, and our field technicians who cover the entire state of North Carolina. I work closely with Sales and Marketing to assist with new business and customer retention. As a VP, I also work the other senior leaders in the company to work on the business not just in the business. I am fortunate to be surrounded by individuals with years of technical experience and I think the most exciting part about my job is that I learn something new every single day.
- Jennifer Cox (Nashville Machine): My education background is in Early Childhood Development and Organizational Leadership. Children have always held a special place in my heart, and I knew I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. In my first career, I managed five preschools. I did that for 14 years. I loved it and the challenge was something that I will never forget. I will always be very grateful for that opportunity. In 2012 I decided to take a leap of faith and join corporate America and got into sales and account management and started my new career at Nashville Machine Company. I have now been in my role for 10 years and truly love what I am doing.
- Lori Bauer (Climate Makers): After growing up on a farm, I started in the trades as a service technician for non-union residential. I worked up to sales and development of light commercial PMA’s and landed at a large mechanical contractor in service sales. During my 12 years of employment I worked up to Service Manager of the service department for their electrical, controls, security, and mechanical systems. I was not promoted because I did not have a four year degree so I started night school for my Business degree and then also my MBA. I acquired CMI 16 years ago and since then have gone through the apprenticeship classes to obtain the four Master mechanical licenses.
- Renee Fiorelli (Peterson Service Company): I am a second generation owner of our family business. I began my career after graduating college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. My plan was to always enter the business after college. Over the years I worked in various positions to really learn about the business. I’ve done everything from administrative work to estimating and project management. I took over as President in 2007 and my father retired a few years later.
- Valerie Mussett (Design Mechanical): I started my career right out of high school. I was hired as a receptionist, but two months later, the “secretary” (that’s how old I am), was leaving in the Service Department so I applied for her position and was hired! I worked there for six years, left to work in the banking industry for three years before heading back to the construction industry and have been here ever since. In 2003 Bill Iler started Design Mechanical and asked me to help get it started. We grew so fast that it took us six years to develop our management team and employee handbook so that’s when I became the General Manager, or the ‘One who wears many hats!’
- Amy Cianciarulo (Atomatic): I am an Industrial Engineer from Purdue University. I have had Engineering roles at Disney World, in manufacturing, supply chain, and now construction. I’ve been at Atomatic for over 6 years. I do a variety of work including mechanical design, drafting, 3D modeling, coordination, and establishing internal processes and standards.
2. Do or did you have a woman leader as a mentor or are there specific women who inspired you?
- Angie Simon: My number one woman mentor in my life was my Aunt Ann. She was born in 1922. She was the first in her family to go to college to become a nurse. She was a nurse for the army during WW2 and stayed in the reserves which allowed her to retire from the army 40 years later at a rank of Colonel. She worked for the Red Cross – spending 20 years in Washington DC then the rest of her career as the director of the Western States Red Cross Blood banks in Portland Oregon. She had many positions where she was the first women in those spots. She was an amazing woman and my best friend. She passed away at 96 years young in 2019. I know that when I went in as National SMACNA President she was watching from heaven!
- Jessika Bell (Cooper Oates): I was brought in to replace the current dispatcher as she moved on to CSR and eventually Ops Manager – she took a special interest in me and helped me along as I learned a whole new industry.
- Angela Greiner (CCAC): My daughter inspires me every day. She has great perspective and is an amazing person at only 12 years old. She makes me want to be better. One thing she challenges me on daily is to work on my time management skills. We have a different perspective on time; I like to be a few minutes early/on-time and she likes to be at least 20 minutes early. We compromise. Sometimes you can learn just as much from someone you are mentoring as they can learn from having you as a mentor.
- Jennifer Cox (Nashville Machine): I did have a woman leader in my previous career, and she taught me that nothing can stand in your way of making a difference regardless of what you do in life. One person that always inspired me and still does, is my Mom. She was fearless in the corporate world and was good at what she did. She is retired now, but I know I can always count on her for guidance, inspiring words, and her wisdom.
- Lori Bauer (Climate Makers): No women mentor and no male leader with inspiration. I persevered with energy, patience, and a lot of self-induced inspiration.
- Renee Fiorelli (Peterson Service Company): I’ve met some amazing women through my involvement with MSCA. They’ve all inspired me in different ways and I am always grateful for the wonderful advice I’ve received over the years. I think the most valuable advice I’ve received is not to be afraid to ask for what you need and don’t be afraid to chart your own course.
- Valerie Mussett (Design Mechanical): When I first began my career, I never imagined I would be working for an HVAC company. I had no idea what that even meant. So, there weren’t very many role models, especially women, in the industry. Everything I learned was from my parents first, then Bill, then I absorbed a lot from others who I came to know in the industry. I knew I wanted to be respected as a woman in the industry so I learned from other women who I respected on how they looked, talked, and the confidence they had, and I drew from that.
- Amy Cianciarulo (Atomatic): In college, there was a strong Women In Engineering program I was a part of. When I was a Freshman I was paired with a female mentor in Engineering, so I knew it was possible to be a female executive. But since graduating, in the companies I’ve worked for, I have never seen it firsthand. All of my bosses have been male. I am inspired to be one of the first females at the head table and to be someone who inspires other females to join me.
3. What is some of the advice you share with young women entering a male-dominated industry like ours?
- Angie Simon: I love this industry and would recommend it to everyone. Women have a place in this industry and I would greatly encourage all women to consider it. My advice to a young woman entering this industry would be ‘You can make such an impact in this industry – don’t let anyone stop you.’ Find a mentor or an ally (women or man) to support you and guide you as you make your way through it. There are many great people who love this business – don’t let one or two people change your mind.
- Cherice Greenway (Prairie Mechanical): Don’t let that intimidate you. Being a female in this industry has a lot of advantages.
- Jessika Bell (Cooper Oates): Young women entering our industry face so many challenges, lack of support, mistreatment, lack of a voice, etc. My advice is to always “trust your gut.” Trust yourself and your judgements. Speak up and make your opinions heard – your perspective is valuable. Seek out mentors and role models, it can help to know you are not alone. Find a group of women who can support you – female networking and industry associations or women in your life who are ahead of you on the path. Be authentic and true to yourself. Seek out allies who will not put you down for your gender, and do not waste time on those who would think less of your heartfelt convictions and strong will.
- Angela Greiner (CCAC): Listen. Ask questions. Be persistent. Never give up. And when you want to give up, don’t.
- Jennifer Cox (Nashville Machine): They, “men,” are not smarter or stronger! Haha! Be confident and you will be respected no matter what.
- Lori Bauer (Climate Makers): Learn the technical aspect of your industry to be confident and address the male’s ignorance with humor.
- Renee Fiorelli (Peterson Service Company): Don’t be afraid to be yourself and know that you have as much to contribute as your male counterparts. Your perspective is valued.
- Valerie Mussett (Design Mechanical): I think the best advice I like to give to women entering this, or any other male-dominated field, is to know your strengths and your weaknesses. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Also, be confident. There will be people you meet who will not accept you and that’s their loss. But keep reminding yourself that you know your business and that’s all you need.
- Amy Cianciarulo (Atomatic): You might have to create a new career path for yourself that doesn’t already exist. This will look much different than your male coworkers who have a more supportive journey. The juggle of work and family is something that requires constant effort and never gets easy.
4. What is one thing you wish more people knew about women in the workplace?
- Angie Simon: There is much data that shows how having a woman on your team, your project, or on your board makes the team so much more cohesive, creative, productive, and profitable. Diversity is a must for a successful team. Women are a critical part of that diversity. Give them a voice and you will be pleased.
- Cherice Greenway (Prairie Mechanical): We are all pretty amazing!
- Jessika Bell (Cooper Oates): I wish more people could recognize women want leadership opportunities—but we also need the resources and support required to make these opportunities successful.
- Angela Greiner (CCAC): There’s a certain pressure that comes with being a working woman and having a family. You are constantly being pulled in different directions and expected to give each of those different directions your full attention. There is a constant desire to be your best, both at work and at home. Sometimes your worlds collide, and everything goes right. Other days you just do your best to survive and hope for a better tomorrow. We need to remember to celebrate our progress, not our perfection.
- Jennifer Cox (Nashville Machine): We aren’t fragile and dumb. We can accomplish just about anything we set our minds to.
- Lori Bauer (Climate Makers): That they can multi-task!
- Renee Fiorelli (Peterson Service Company): Women bring a fresh perspective and unique leadership style. We have a tremendous ability to bring people together and nurture teamwork.
- Valerie Mussett (Design Mechanical): Honestly, I think each generation is getting better at accepting people for who they are. Also understanding people’s strengths and weaknesses and helping them find the best fit. Women are strong in so many ways, both at home and in business. Men are strong in so many different ways as well. We all need each other and need to understand that. I feel there’s value in both, no matter what industry or business you’re in.
- Amy Cianciarulo (Atomatic): Women can be both gentle and fierce. Our unique perspective is necessary and valuable. Determined women can still be successful even if there is opposition or little support. But it is so much better when we have belief and encouragement from coworkers and leadership.
5. How should women support other women in their organizations?
- Angie Simon: We women are not good at promoting our successes – women tend to be quiet and humble about the great things we do. We need to help promote other women since we often don’t do it ourselves. Also having women’s groups will greatly help young women entering the industry find mentors and navigate the first few years in the industry – which are typically the toughest times. So I recommend that they find a Women in Construction group to join.
- Cherice Greenway (Prairie Mechanical): Build each other up always. Stay positive!
- Jessika Bell (Cooper Oates): Women can support each other by mentoring and sponsoring; commit the time and energy to mentor another woman in the industry. Encourage women to go for it and look for opportunities to boost other women’s confidences. Give the women you work with input that can help them learn and grow.
- Angela Greiner (CCAC): Show some grace. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. As women, we need to lift each other up and support each other however we can.
- Jennifer Cox (Nashville Machine): Share experiences, both good and bad. We learn from each other. Surround yourself with people who are good at things that you aren’t. It will challenge you to become a better person all around.
- Lori Bauer (Climate Makers): Inspire and mentor other women by example. I look for those opportunities in the mechanical industry consistently.
- Renee Fiorelli (Peterson Service Company): I think women just need to be there for each other, especially in a male dominated industry. Women all struggle with the demands of our home life and work and we need the support and advice of other women to know that we are not alone.
- Valerie Mussett (Design Mechanical): I probably fail the most with this one. I’m often asked this question and I like turning it around to them and ask, “What are you doing to support everyone in the workplace?” That includes, men, women, generations, religions, etc. If we fail to understand the value of everyone around us, then the whole team fails. I like to support everyone as that’s what will end our discrimination.
- Amy Cianciarulo (Atomatic): Create a work environment where there is joy, support, and encouragement. A positive work place makes a huge difference!