Meet all of the 2022 Top Women in HVAC

Kirby Lunger

Title: Chief Operations and Marketing Officer (COO/CMO)
Company: The Dobbert Companies Inc.
Educational Experience: B.A., Yale University. Several professional licenses and certifications
Industry Work Experience: 20+ years of business and technology leadership experience including the launch and management of successful new company divisions and start-up technology and consulting companies.

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

According to a recent article in The ACHR NEWS titled “Planning for HVACR Market Consolidation,” “The HVACR industry includes a lot of smaller companies, particularly among contractors … these companies tend to be family-owned, multigenerational, and have strong ties in their communities.” The Dobbert Companies very much fits the bill; it’s 45+ years old and until recently was run solely by the Dobbert family.

I was brought in with deep experience in the technology industry and lots of operating experience helping lead other small- to mid-sized businesses to help modernize company systems and processes and to help diversify the leadership beyond the core family group.


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

The Dobbert Companies has been my first experience working for a family-owned business. I used to pride myself first and foremost on efficiency, but when your organization has been doing business for decades with the same customers, vendors, and employees, enjoying and participating in the business’s community is crucial.

I learned with this team that how we get there (focusing on the journey) is just as important, if not more critical, than arriving at the destination. I know that the relationships I’ve developed here are friendships and partnerships that will last me throughout my lifetime.


Describe the proudest moment in your career.

Part of my role here at The Dobbert Companies is to make sure that we’re giving back to the communities where we operate. We have chosen to mostly give anonymously and confidentially unless our team is serving on a board or performing direct volunteer work. The changes we’ve helped quietly bring about in our communities through giving back in these ways have been monumental and are the moments I’m proudest of in my time with The Dobbert Companies.


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

There are a whole host of issues women in business face in general, but I’ll focus on two that I think are particularly problematic in this industry today.

The first is representation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November 2019 that only 1.4% of U.S. HVAC mechanics and installers were female in 2018. According to McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, as you climb the corporate ranks across all industries, women still comprise less than 25% of all executive-level (C-level) positions. This is sadly an example that translates to The Dobbert Companies. Despite heavy recruiting efforts, we have yet to hire a female HVACR tech at the company.

The second issue is perception. Women face assumptions from current and prospective colleagues, customers, and partners about what women can and can’t do, before they ever have the chance to prove themselves on the job.


How can we increase the number of women in HVACR?

Improve education for women in HVACR starting in early education through K-12. Work to attract, recruit, and retain women into HVAC-related fields and majors in trade school, university, and beyond. Create better hiring, promotion, and retention initiatives and more intentionally representative organizations.


What does your day-to-day job entail?

I joke with my team that I’m the “jack of all trades and the master of none.” As The Dobbert Companies’ Chief Operations and Marketing Officer, I oversee all our day-to-day operations. Depending on what’s urgent and important, that means that in any given day, I could be meeting with customers, partners, employees, unions, or vendors to review and dig into whatever needs attention in areas as diverse as HR, accounting and finance, IT, marketing, sales, etc.


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

I want to help The Dobbert Companies grow to the next level, which means becoming more of a national/international player in the HVACR field. Also, since I didn’t “grow up” in the HVACR profession, learning more about the hands-on aspects of the job would be fun and useful for me so that I have a better idea of the day-to-day opportunities and challenges our field team faces.


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

In the original 1984 movie of “The Karate Kid” franchise, teacher Mr. Miyagi makes student Daniel LaRusso work repeatedly on seemingly simple, stupid tasks like waxing a car. This drives Daniel to extreme frustration, until Daniel discovers that these repetitive, menial tasks are the basis for all the karate moves he needs to learn.

It’s the same when you’re just starting out in HVACR or any other field. You need to learn the basics to become a master. Do your best at whatever you’re doing, even if you don’t always understand how your day-to-day efforts fit into the bigger picture, and you will be planting the seeds for future success.