Name: Matthew Preto

Title: Service Technician

Why He’s Tech of the Month: Matthew Preto used to be an auto mechanic, specializing in motorcycles. Then, the Great Recession hit.

“When the economy tanked, toys became secondary to most people,” he said.

HVAC was still doing well, he was told. His former manager had switched to HVAC, and Preto interviewed with him at the company where both men work currently: Smith Mechanical Inc. in Columbia, Maryland. Preto started there in October 2015.

At Smith Mechanical, Preto works in the service department, which has about 15 people who are in the field. (The company itself has about 200-250 employees.) Coming, as he did, from a mechanical background, Preto’s HVAC training was strictly on-the-job.

“I started off building dirt bikes as a kid — I always had the mechanical background for it,” he said. “Within three months of working in HVAC, they put me on call.”

His realm at Smith Mechanical covers compressors, commercial rooftop units, split systems, direct-fired warehouse and commercial heaters, VAV boxes, steam humidifiers, and server room cooling equipment. He does preventative maintenance as well.

When he’s training techs himself, Preto embraces a hands-on philosophy. He’d rather help people learn a new skill, in the moment, than do it for them.

“School is good for knowledge, but you’ve got to be able to think on your feet,” he said. “To overcome an obstacle, that’s truly got to be in the field … to handle it in the situation. It’s just working through the issues. It makes you think.”

Preto enjoys that challenge.

“I like being able to fix an issue for the customer the first time,” he said. “When there’s a lot of techs out [to a job site] who can’t find the issue, I like to be the guy out there who does — and by the end of the day, the people who were stuck with a stuffy, 80° to 90°F building … they’re all happy. That would be my pride and joy, in this field.”

Steve Davis, service manager at Smith Mechanical, said the company trusts Preto with many of their higher-profile accounts because of his customer relations skills and his attention to detail, both on the job site and with paperwork.

“Matt is a very dedicated and intelligent technician,” Davis said. “He constantly is working to improve himself, and he has far surpassed the skills of many techs that have many more years of tenure.

“We had a customer with a 100 percent fresh air system that was serving a critical laboratory,” Davis continued by way of example. “They were having severe humidity control issues. Matt stayed late, read and absorbed the documents on an advanced and complex system, and got the unit running and dehumidifying. He was able to bypass a faulty component and get the customer’s lab operational again.”

Preto plans to continue his own education and keep working in the field.

“I want to get my journeyman’s license first,” he said. (He’s planning to achieve that shortly.) “As soon as I do that, I would like to specialize in something, whether it’s server rooms, the new craze of ductless splits … maybe even go into chillers.”

To nominate an HVACR technician for Tech of the Month, click here or email

Publication date: 6/17/2019

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!