Meet April Hines. She is a sales and customer assurance manager for Bay Area Air Conditioning Inc. in Crystal River-New Port Richey, Florida. She is also a first-time attender of the 15th Annual Women in HVACR (WHVACR) Conference that took place at the historic Brown Palace Hotel in Denver last month.

Hines started her HVAC career in the family business at the age of 7 as she stuffed envelopes for a penny a piece in her father’s one-man HVAC shop.

“After watching my father grow his business to a team of 67 employees and be inducted into the Carrier Hall of Fame in front of his industry peers, I decided that I wanted to learn the family business, and five years ago I joined his team as well,” said Hines. “I feel fortunate that I have an organization of intelligent, extraordinary women to walk the path with while learning this industry. Their support seems to know no bounds.”

“Defying Gravity” was the theme of the 2018 conference, and Mary Jo Gentry, president of WHVACR and marketing communications manager for Ritchie Engineering — Yellow Jacket, kicked off the meetings with comments for new and returning attendees alike.

“The best part about this year’s conference was the happiness that beamed from the room from start to finish,” she said. “We filled the days with speakers and interactive events that left attendees feeling motivated and welcomed. This year’s attendance of 140 beat our previous year’s record of 120 attendees. We hope this conference continues to grow as the organization grows and matures.”



Amid icebreakers, sponsor booths, and roundtables, attendees listened to five primary speakers who each addressed a specific aspect of women in the business world. Stacy Pederson was the first to address the conference. This motivational speaker and stand-up comic approached tragedy head on, and through humor, she demonstrated how to find hope, love, joy, and laughter in the midst of tragedy. Angie Snow, success coach at Snow Business Coaching; co-owner and vice president of Western Heating & Air Conditioning, Orem, Utah; and treasurer of WHVACR, discussed practical ways to improve time management. She encouraged attendees to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed despite being women who juggle many roles.

“This was my first event, and I enjoyed thinking outside the box for new ideas and learning to not be afraid to break the mold,” said Crystal Williams, marketing director at McWilliams and Son Heating and Air, Lufkin, Texas. “I loved Angie Snow’s comment — I’m not busy, I’m productive. People tell me I’m too busy and I’ve realized that I’m productive, not just busy.”

Leslie Gildea, senior director of business at ServiceTitan, Glendale, California, explained how her career as a human rights attorney in Burma taught her lessons she could leverage to navigate the male-dominated industry of HVACR. Emily Saving, executive vice president of Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) presented the macro trends and current leading indicators of HVACR business and policy climate. She shared with attendees different ideas on how to be best in class or risk losing market share.

Last up was keynote speaker Tamara Kleinberg. Her presentation focused on innovation and how to use it to stand out in a cluttered world. According to Kleinberg, those who do not learn how to be innovative will find themselves becoming irrelevant. She did not present a formulaic approach to innovation, but rather taught those in the audience how to be peak performers that have a stronger, more valued voice.



During the jam-packed day of learning and interaction, WHVACR talked with conference attendees about its progress on 2018’s goals as well what the organization’s plans and goals were for 2019.

“As president, we set annual goals for the organization, and my goal was to actively involve more of our members,” Gentry said. “We have done that through biweekly membership calls and our mentorship program.”

Not only did Danielle Putnam, vice president of WHVACR and president of The New Flat Rate, address the conference about these goals, but the association also introduced — in detail — each of its subcommittees and encouraged member attendees to become actively involved with a subcommittee of their choosing.

Other WHVACR business included the presentation of scholarships to two of the four winners who were able to attend. Ryli Jetton and Valarie Morrison were each awarded checks for $2,000, along with a bag of new tools, at the conference.



After a long day of networking and learning, conference attendees headed to dinner at The Wynkoop Brewing Co., dressed in their finest “Wicked” attire, as they celebrated the theme “Defying Gravity.”

The next day, the group chose between two different field trips. Some hiked Mount Bierstadt and others went to Balistreri Vineyards for a wine tour, tasting, and lunch.

Every experience was met with enthusiasm from the attendees, and each of them took a different nugget of wisdom and encouragement for their continued journey in the HVACR industry.

“The best part of this year’s conference for me was everyone’s enthusiasm,” said Colleen Keyworth, sales and marketing manager for Online-Access in Port Huron, Michigan, and current board member of WHVACR. “Organizations like WHVACR are vital to anyone in this industry because they provide the best avenues to connect with other professionals. They make a very large industry seem a whole lot more accessible. My favorite saying to remember when talking about WHVACR is — work until you no longer have to introduce yourself — and that’s exactly what I plan on doing.”

Publication date: 10/29/2018

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