Meet all of the 2022 Top Women in HVAC

Renee Tomlinson

Title: Executive Director
Company: ESCO Institute
Educational Experience: AAS Business Administration, Wright College
Industry Work Experience: I have been involved in the industry for about 28 years. My experience has been in the association/education side.

What caused you to/when did you to enter the HVACR industry?

I didn’t purposely enter the industry. There was an opening for a receptionist position at an industry organization and I applied for the job. I didn’t even realize what I was getting into — I just knew it was a company/organization that did training and certification for people in heating and air conditioning and they needed someone to answer the phones. This was back in early 1994 amid the implementation of the EPA Section 608 Regulations.

After mastering the switchboard and other duties, I really started to dig in and learn about what was happening, why it was important, and what the true depth and scope of this industry really was. I began reading books published by the organization, attending industry events, and just continued to grow in both my industry knowledge and passion for wanting to be a part of helping this industry to grow and flourish.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in HVACR?

The people! There are so many amazing people in this industry. From my staff and colleagues to the educators, wholesalers, technicians, and contractors. The HVACR industry becomes this circle of friends, near and far. Knowledgeable and talented people, so many of whom love to give back and help others grow and succeed.


Describe the proudest moment in your career.

When my youngest son (a high school senior) said he doesn’t think he wants to go to college, he wants to learn to be an electrician or HVAC tech.

There is no one defining proud moment — there are so many. And what makes me most proud is seeing the accomplishments of my team and colleagues come to fruition. When a book gets published, when we master a new skill or learn a new technology. Every milestone and every step forward is truly astonishing.


What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?

While much has changed over the years I have been involved in the industry, and women are really starting to take a stronger foothold and gain respect in the industry, there is still stereotyping and undermining happening. For example, when someone you are speaking with assumes you don’t know what they are talking about when they start to get technical.


How can we increase the number of women in HVACR?

While there is no one magic answer, we must keep spreading the word, keep sharing stories, keep supporting and bringing to light that the HVACR industry is for everyone and that there are ample opportunities, at so many different levels — from management, trade associations, marketing, sales, and of course, we need more technicians.

To increase the number of women in the industry, we have to gain more respect as an industry as a whole. When society stops looking down on blue collar workers and tradespeople and looks at this industry as another noble profession, we will start to gain more interest from all groups at all levels.


What does your day-to-day job entail?

The great thing about my job is that no two days are the same. I do a lot of behind-the scenes work. I manage an awesome and dedicated office staff and work with an amazing team of technical developers and industry leaders. Together we work to build partnerships, write contracts, explore opportunities, keep up with industry news, guide development of products and services, put finishing touches on publications, design marketing pieces, and so much more.


What remains on your HVACR bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

What we need to accomplish as an industry is bridging the gap between schools/students and employer/contractors. While I know I cannot solve this issue alone, I do hope that I and my team can have an impact on making great strides in this area.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of students completing HVAC training programs on an annual basis. Many of them struggle to get a job because there is a two-year field experience requirement in every job post for technicians.

At the same time, contractors are struggling to hire the help they need. We also hear that contractors won’t/don’t hire students from their local community college/trade school programs for a lack of knowledge/technical knowhow.

We need to get contractors more involved with the local programs to help guide the instructors and administrators in what real-world skills are needed in these programs. If contractors would become more involved in the local schools/training programs, they would be amazed at how they can change the face of education.


What advice do you have for females who are considering entering the HVACR field?

The HVACR industry needs more great people. If you are dedicated and passionate, there are amazing opportunities. Never be intimidated and don’t ever give up.