The Joys of Being a Female Business Owner in a Blue Collar Industry

We all have them, right?

Tales of hardships at the work place as old as humans have flipping existed. Then there are the obvious challenges that most of us know we are working on as a society. Well, at least some of us are.

Some of us are self-absorbed or worse─ oblivious shits.

Fast forward to the industry that I work in. Think of it like an auto parts store combined with diagnostics (tech support), and a tire replacement/oil change all in one except we handle HVAC units. (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) We mostly handle residential customers and some contractors. (handy-men, remodelers, installers, etc.) The most common question I get in-store is how I got into the industry. I have worked in the tech industry for years, how things work have fascinated me forever! I once took apart a gaming console and controllers to see how it worked.

I was…in a lot of trouble for that one.

Mom be like

While I loved my job and what I did, the industry changed a lot. Contracted help was commonplace and then suddenly if you weren’t certified, if you didn’t take expensive courses and get more certifications, then you were replaced. As soon as I was made aware that after a certain date we weren’t able to move up in the industry unless we did all of these things─ you better believe my ass dove in and took every training course, learned about cloud based systems, DNS, Azure, anything I could to ensure my future there.

Then, six weeks later I’m in the running to move over to the other side, the one our team dreamed of. I was running a small team of my own at this point, doing weekly presentations, and trying my hardest to make an example of my performance so they could see that I practiced what I preached. I surprised myself with how into it I really was. I got my certs, and my in-house certs I needed to move over and work on the path to being a network engineer.

Less than a month later (by the way, several others were in the same position as me) they announced that contract workers cannot move over to become network engineers. I spoke with the department head and asked how we could become one. Well, guess what─ I would have to quit my job and apply again in six months. I get the security thing in the tech field, but couldn’t it have all been avoided by me keeping the position that I earned? But that’s just it, it’s how that industry is run.

Let’s also not forget that just in the campus I worked in, female to male ratio was extremely low. Unless you worked on the social media team or tier one tech support. The social media side was flooded with ladies. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to challenge myself and learn everything. After some thought, I decided to quit and pursue other things.

(I’m glossing over a few jobs here and there for the sake of the reader)

My boyfriend has worked in HVAC since he was in diapers. He had recently fired an employee and was running the business by himself. I’d be making even a little less a year, and knew nothing about the industry but it was something new and interesting to learn. I studied, listened and learned the inner workings of HVAC systems for the next two years (still on-going). It is a blast getting to problem solve and help people install parts on their units. Managing and running the front end can present challenges but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The best part? Getting to put motors together in the store and watching people’s faces as we set them up to just plug back in to their unit. It is so satisfying on many levels to help people that just can’t afford to hire a technician or enjoy learning like myself. I get to troubleshoot over the phone and walk people through isolating the problem.

For the most part, many of the guys that walk in the store are grateful and courteous. Some are curious, not meaning to sound like an ass at my choice of work but say funny and sometimes awkward things. Those guys are awesome and make my day when I get to help them do it themselves.

Then there’s the type that just drive me up the wall. I get at least two to three phone calls a day that ask for a technician or to speak to a guy that can help them. I’m usually polite and explain that I can help them and to go ahead and tell me their issue. Some sound surprised but explain, others get quiet and slightly gruff, and then my absolute favorite─ the one’s that try to explain what they are talking about to me. I’m not talking about their issue alone. I’m talking about them stopping and asking, “you know, the condensing unit outside for an AC unit. It’s part of the air conditioning. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

Stress Beware GIF - Stress Beware Snap GIFs

My inner smart ass wants to say, “An AC unit? What is that?”

But I take a breath and start asking diagnostic questions. There’s a reason why I ask them. They get irritated when I ask if both of their units are coming on, indoor and outdoor. I usually get, “no, no, it’s my outdoor that I’m talking about, you know─ the one outside the house.”

I explain that I need to know if both are on so that I can see if you have a busted transformer, which controls both units. I need to know if the flipping thermostat is working. It’s an entire system working together, it doesn’t just magically send ac into your house and blow directly from outside…that is why it is called a condensing unit. It condenses, goes through a high pressure line to go from a liquid to a gas, blows over your evaporator coils and blown into your home from your indoor unit blower.

While I could bore you all to tears with the knowledge I know, the point is─ I have to explain myself constantly. Granted, no homeowner is going to know many things so I understand walking them through. I expect having to break it down in a way that someone could understand. But others become hostile and downright rude. There are two gentlemen that come in from time to time and refuse to talk to me. “I’d like to talk with the gentleman from last time,” to which I respond, “I’m afraid that he is busy right now, I can help you. What is the issue?” They both always respond, “I can wait until he is done.” While this is something I could understand if it were complicated issues or something only he knows about, but it often isn’t.

It is so frustrating having guys reach across the counter when I am testing motors, checking fan blades, and looking wires over. They grab lids and pull them as I am trying to gain leverage by pulling it toward myself and walk the fan blade off of the motor. Even worse, when I have 240 volts OF ELECTRICITY LIVE as I test the motor. If the motor shorts and they are holding it, that’s going to be a nasty jolt.

GIF held guide heroe - animated GIF on GIFER

Every couple of minutes I get asked, “do you need help?” No. No I don’t and if I did, I would ask my co-worker because you have no idea what it is I need help with. I get told to ‘put some oil on it and it will be easier to get off.’ Yeah…you put oil on rust and then move that motor across years of rust. See what that does for you.

I was on the phone with a gentleman just last week that literally talked over me as I was asking him questions─ got angry when I asked him to text us a picture and when I only got one picture he kept repeating himself that he had sent four and that I could easily see the label of the motor. As I explained that we only received one photo and it was blurry, he again cut me off and told me that he sent four and that he could see it fine in his pictures. When he had told me earlier that he had a Carrier unit, I had asked him if he saw a part number that started with an H.

He had said no. So now, after twenty minutes of talking with this guy, he magically sees a part number starting with H and gives it to me. I cross the part number without a problem and explain the price and availability to him. It all could have been avoided if he would have just listened to me the first time and gotten the model number off the back of the unit instead of taking blurry photos of his motor. It literally allows me to login to their website, look up the correct part, and any supersedes or kits he may need to install his new motor.

I had one homeowner tell me his technician told him to get a motor that was the wrong rpm and physical size. When I asked the homeowner if he knew the capacitor size, or had the model number he said no and he would call the technician so I could talk to him. The phone rings, the guy answers. I proceed to ask him if he knew what capacitor the motor and compressor took, he states over the phone, angrily, “no, no, no, you are not listening, it is the capacitor the one for the outside unit. He needs a 1/4 horsepower motor, 1075 rpm, that is all he needs.” I calmly start explaining that I needed to know what the old motor took because it could blow out his new motor if it was wrong. Not even to the end of my sentence he cuts me off again, “no─ you are not listening to what I am saying. It is the one for the outside─” I cut him off, very irritated at this point. “No, you are not listening. I know what a condensing unit is, I know what a capacitor is, I know that he needs a motor. I need to know what the old motor took so I know if he needs a new capacitor. I need to know what his label says on his motor, and I need his model number. So take a picture of that and send it to me. I will not sell you a motor until you do that.”

The 'NO YOU' thread :) - The Student Room

The homeowner immediately starts to apologize (very sweet guy, and caught in the middle of an awkward situation.) and tells the man he will go get a picture and send it to me.

The next day, I get the model number, get him the correct motor and he is on his way to comfort again. He mentions that he got a new tech to help him after realizing the other guy didn’t know what he was doing.

It isn’t the questioning that gets to me. The guys at the office are questioned too. There will always be a jerk that won’t listen no matter your gender. (don’t even get me started on engineers and youtube ‘experts’) But it is unacceptable that I have to not only repeat myself, not only take several moments of my time to help diagnose or troubleshoot, but watch as one of my male co-workers get asked the same questions and once they are answered by them the guy goes, “oh, ok I see that makes sense. Man, you are really smart I appreciate it.”

Most of the time I can brush it off. But there are days that it really hurts when I put motors together, or answer questions and if one of the guys behind the counter talk to them, they thank the guy, take the motor and walk out.

They will tell me the wrong thing when I ask questions or omit things they have done. I repeatedly ask and enforce my questions to follow up and make sure what they are telling me is correct. Often people don’t check voltage correctly, or don’t realize the steps you need to take to diagnose an issue.

I shit you not, they will tell me something and then when the guys walk over they will tell them something else. The guys would give me shit over this and tell me I just misunderstood or the homeowner didn’t understand the question. Until they caught a couple of guys doing it.

I’ve learned when and how to speak firmly─ if you don’t speak with confidence, or you backpedal people sense that. And they 100% will try and test you. I had a guy throwing around a bunch of jargon he heard on youtube and asked me muddled questions that made zero sense. When this happens, I’ve learned to ask them to explain what they have done. People tend to gloss over the important details and offer that ‘they already reset the power, they already checked voltage, they already jumped such and such wires together.’ I have to get them to go back to the original issue and explain what voltage they got, where they checked the voltage, etc.

I know when to pick my battles. If a man is having nothing to do with what I say, or is not listening I do one of two things─ go and get one of the guys from the back (usually when it is something I am unclear over) or I politely ask them to leave the store. They have no business treating me that way, or anyone for that matter.

While it can be tough, I enjoy the challenge to learn more and study how things work. It’s a daily battle but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Running a business is a challenge within itself let alone a business that is considered a ‘man’s man’ job. I plan on taking it one day at a time and shake them haters off.

What Haters Are Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s