Women in Mechanical Construction

MISSION

MCA Canada’s Women in Mechanical Construction is a forum through which women who work in mechanical construction share experiences, seize opportunities and learn skills that will help them advance their careers. It provides networking, education, mentoring and professional-development programs specifically dedicated to helping women in mechanical construction build long and productive careers in the industry.

STRATEGY

The Committee offers the following for women having a role in MCAC member companies:

  • Skills development, education & training
  • Professional & personal goal achievement
  • Networking and mentorship opportunities
  • Leadership opportunities within the committee
  • Enhanced career opportunities
  • Incentives to keep high-performing individuals in the industry

GOALS

  • Development, training and networking opportunities for women joining our program
  • Enhanced opportunities and abilities for member companies to attract, develop and retain more high-performing women as team members
  • Increased engagement of women in association programs, initiatives, committees, councils, and boards.
  • Making the industry a preferred choice of career for women

Women in Mechanical Construction Committee

PERSONAL OBJECTIVES

This is such an exciting time for women – period!  There are tremendous opportunities within the construction industry in every capacity, from the trades, to engineering, estimating, finance, safety, to management.  From a personal perspective, I am both excited and honoured to be part of a collective group of dynamic women who are combining years of experience in the industry together with a network of contacts and are working to forge a path for other women to take hold of opportunities while providing leadership, direction and mentorship through the WiMC.

ADVICE

I have had the privilege to work in the construction industry for just over 20 years.  It has not gone without its challenges.  Looking back, it was all of those challenges that shaped me into the person and leader that I am today.  When I am asked for advice or how I managed to have a career and be a mother, wife, friend etc the answer is not magical but very simple.  Hard work and lots of hours.  Opportunities are given to us, but it is what you do with them.  Everyone’s starting point in life will be different, but I am a firm believer that everyone can be successful, it just depends on how they define success.

Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, but do so with intelligence and with integrity.  The older I become, I realize the importance of character.  When you first start out you are looking to please everyone else.  Take time to establish your self-worth.  If I was starting out again, I wish I would have had more of this wisdom – unfortunately, you can’t buy that, it only comes with experience so its best to enjoy the journey.

MENTORS, INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE

Categorically my parents and my children.  I am blessed beyond belief with the family I was born into and for my 3 children who impact every decision I make.  Family keeps you grounded.

Having said that, at this moment in my life and career I feel obliged to give those people who presented me with serious challenges or obstacles some credit as well, as it was often in those circumstances that I thrived from a personal development perspective.  It was those people that gave me the internal desire to be different than them … to learn more, give back, adapt better, listen effectively and think differently.   There is a lesson to be learned from everyone and every circumstance!!  Don’t let people keep you stuck.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE MECHANICAL CONTRACTING INDUSTRY?

In 2004, I was hired to work on a project in Brandon, MB at Chemtrade (Canexus) Chemicals as the Project Controller for DMS Industrial.  During this project, I had the privilege to work closely with the EPCM contractor and Canexus senior management team.  Subsequent to this project, I spent 4 years working directly for Canexus as the Project Cost Control Auditor in North Vancouver, BC.  My responsibility was to oversee the sub-contractor cost reporting accuracy on a $250M technology conversion project.  In 2009, I returned to MB and became the Chief Financial Officer at DMS Industrial and ServcoCanada group of companies.

WHAT IS THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

Surround yourself with people that are experts and more experienced than you.  You do not have to always have all the answers, but you do need to surround yourself with a great team that does.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY?

The constant changing and challenging environment

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

I am the Chief Financial Officer at ServcoCanada.  I love my job as it allows me to work with a diverse group of people from around the world.  I am challenged on a daily basis meeting new people with new ideas and trying to understand and utilize their best practices.

WHO WAS YOUR BEST MENTOR?  LESSONS?

Honestly, my husband who is also the president at ServcoCanada.  He has encouraged me to explore opportunities I was unsure about, push myself out of my comfort zone, embrace the challenge and strive to be better every day.  He has supported me as CFO, but more importantly as a person.

Secondly, was my supervisor at Canexus who understood my strengths and weaknesses and gave me the chance to work with and grow with his team.  He supported and encouraged me through my weaknesses and inexperience, teaching me the importance of team collaboration and a supportive work environment.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY WOMAN STARTING IN THIS INDUSTRY ANY ADVISE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Work hard, listen to and learn from the experienced team around you and keep pushing through each obstacle as there is an immense feeling of satisfaction when you become part of a team where your experience is valued.

HARDEST OBSTACLE?  INDUSTRY RELATED IF ANY?

Being a woman in a predominantly male construction industry required me to extra work hard for recognition and respect.  I chose to embrace this obstacle (usually!!) and used it to push me harder rather than slow me down.

COMMUNITY GIVE BACK?  ANY ORGANIZATIONS YOUR INVOLVED, VOLUNTEER, SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY?

Live Different and The Samantha Mason Foundation: Angels of Compassion

https://livedifferent.com/

https://livedifferent.com/partners/angels-of-compassion-the-samantha-mason-foundation/

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS?

Both personally and professionally through Ermen Plumbing, we are members of:

Women in Mechanical Construction

Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada

Partner with New Boots (a division of New Brunswick Mentor Apprenticeship Program)

Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce

Apprenticeship Advisory Committee

Construction Association of NB Plumbing Safety Advisory Committee

Mechanical Contractors Association of NB

COMMUNITY GIVES BACK?

We believe without our community the success of our family business’ wouldn’t be possible. Giving back is very important for myself and my brother.

Lead sponsor through Ermen Plumbing and Heating for Coldest Night of the year with proceeds going to Youth Impact for Moncton’s homeless and at-risk youth

Lead sponsor through Ermen Plumbing and Heating for Ride For Refuge, proceeds to Moncton’s homeless and at-risk youth

Monthly sponsorship for the greater Moncton SPCA

Support Breakfast and Milk programs in elementary schools

Various organized sports sponsorships (Competitive Swim, Hockey, and Cheerleading) Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance

United Way, Day of Caring Campaign

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?

100% my daughter, Emma. Being a mom is the most rewarding experience and I was very fortunate to stay home with her for 9 years while my brother kept everything running successfully and growing the business.

MAIN OBJECTIVE OF WMC?

I’ll be honest with this question, the ultimate goal (perhaps won’t happen in my lifetime but maybe for the next generation) is for committees like this won’t have to exist. To break through the stereotypes surrounding women in trades. Raising awareness and education.

ADVICE TO WOMEN GOING INTO A TRADE?

My advice is simple, keep your head up, shoulders back and exude confidence even when you feel you have none. Just push through and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

BEST MENTOR?

My family. Grandparents and parents both passed down a strong work ethic. Work hard, pay attention and it will pay off. Both paternal and maternal sides come from an entrepreneurial background. Derek (my brother) and I are a great team, a good balance and we see eye to eye. Working every day with my family is rewarding. In a perfect world, we would love to pass our family business’ onto a 4th generation, my nephew Ridley and my daughter Emma.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF CAREER ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Don’t try to be anyone else but yourself, everyone else is already taken and that’s just boring. Be you, be unique, be authentic and people will respect that because it’s genuine.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

As President of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New Brunswick and the Construction Association of New Brunswick – Moncton Northeast, I have the privilege of working with business leaders who are shaping the communities we live in by building the structures and infrastructure that provide us with the quality of life that is envied by so many around the world. I love raising awareness about our industry because it’s often taken for granted that’s it’s not just simply erecting a building, that there are many steps involved, not to mention expertise, problem-solving and innovation that goes into designing and building our communities with the utmost commitment to excellence and safety. Water just doesn’t magically appear out of a faucet, it’s someone behind that design, there’s a tradesperson, with training and expertise that has made that happen.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY WOMAN STARTING IN THIS INDUSTRY ANY ADVISE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Whether you’re a man or a woman, we all have similar desires and that’s working in a career that is fulfilling, successful and prosperous. I think if you can find a way to relate with people, they will want to work with you and you with them to advance your mutual goals regardless of your gender.

COMMUNITY GIVE BACK?  ANY ORGANIZATIONS YOUR INVOLVED, VOLUNTEER, SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY?

I sit on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Moncton. It’s fulfilling to support such a wonderful organization and staff that has such an impact on our local youth.

BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

The best career advice I have ever received came from a Journeyman Plumber when I was a first year apprentice.  I confided to him that I was worried about no one taking me seriously in the trade because I am a woman.  He told me, “To the people that are important, it won’t matter what you look like or where you’re from… if you put your best foot forward at work every day, you will earn respect and a place in your company.”  It turned out to be true and I’ve never forgotten it.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

My current position is the Acting Program Head of the Women in Trades and Technology Program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Our programming provides opportunities for girls and women to explore the trades in a safe environment so that they can make informed decisions about the career that they choose to pursue.  We also offer on campus supports to those women currently taking programs of a non-traditional nature.  The thing that I love best about my job is the everyday interaction of the women that I am working with.  I love to see that my team and I are making a difference in people’s lives and helping them identify and pursue their passion!

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS YOU BELONG TO? COMMITTEES?

I currently belong to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s Supporting Women in the Trades Task force, specifically tackling Creating Respectful Workplaces.  I am also a part of the Equity Awareness Committee at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.  I sit on YWCA’s advisory committee board for their Trade Journey Program in Saskatoon and am also on the advisory committee board for the Office to Advance Women Apprentices office that recently opened their doors in Saskatchewan.

WHO WAS MY BEST MENTOR?

I am very lucky to have my mother as a pioneer in this industry.  She was a medical doctor by trade, then self-taught construction project management/engineering when she and my step-father started a mechanical contracting company.  She blazed a path for women in construction and taught me that there were 2 important things – always go to a meeting prepared and know what you know and what you don’t know and be confident with that.

HOW DID I GET TO WHERE I AM NOW?

I started at the bottom and did everything I could possibly do to learn the industry first hand.  So, from shop clean up to inventory to drafting to estimating to project managing to starting my own company to expanding with employees to building a new office facility to growing and now looking at succession planning, with some payroll and accounting thrown in where needed at the start.  There was nothing I didn’t want to try so that I understood what it meant and what it took to be good at it.  Then I looked at what I was good at and focused on finding good people to do the things I couldn’t do well.  It was a process of hard work and drive to achieve more, partnered with finding the right people to work with you.

There have been many milestones in the business over the last 20 years, but one of the most satisfying was winning the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.   The satisfying part was not the winning, although that was a great honour.  It was the requirement to submit an explanation of why I deserved to win.  I spent a lot of time looking back at the 5 years we had been in business and all the accomplishments that occurred during that time.   It was a bit of a shock to see all the things that had happened.   You get so focused on moving forward, and what you need to do to have a successful business, that it takes something like this to make you stop and turn around and recognize what you have accomplished in that time.

WANDA HEIMBECKER – MANAGER, MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION HAMILTON NIAGARA

Wanda Heimbecker is recognized as a highly motivated, reputable professional with over twenty years of award-winning success in business management, community/project development, public and media relations, communications, marketing engagement, program facilitation, and financial administration.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

I’m entering my 11th year as the operations manager with the Mechanical Contractors Association Hamilton Niagara, an accredited unionized construction employer’s organization registered under the Labour Relations Act. Southern Ontario employers in Hamilton, Niagara, Halton, Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties are signatory to the agreement between Mechanical Contractors Association Ontario and the United Association Ontario Provincial Pipe Trades Council (UA Local 67). Our professional network represents diversity where every perspective is valued. This framework of governance layers, protocols, and their committees attracts experienced professionals where I truly feel engaged in every exchange and aspect knowing daily learning evolves into professional growth.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE MECHANICAL CONTRACTING INDUSTRY?

My work ethic, leadership, and handling of adversity were recognized by a director on the association’s board while serving as the “first female director and president” of a private business club. Apparently, women were only allowed to join just nine years before my successful elected appointment. I can tell you I shook many hands or at least I tried too, with senior gentlemen who were not ready for women to join their private business social haven. I have great respect for truth and integrity, thanking many for their conviction as I walked this path.

WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH WIMC MEMBERS?

As a regional manager by day, I also co-manage my family owned agri-tourism destination business Whistling Gardens a private botanical gardens and garden centre. I have been self-employed for almost 30 years and still manage my part-time consulting company WMD Consultants specializing in collaborative solutions within the government, philanthropic and corporate sectors.

My achievements have been recognized by industry peers, as a co-recipient of numerous national and municipal awards in the areas of: Garden Tourism, Sustainable Tourism, New Tourism Idea, Youth Television Programming, and Youth Mentorship. Our family is also a recent recipient of the Canada 150 Awards Federal Medal, recognized for our positive community contributions.   I’m proud of co-authoring a sales/mentoring education book “Sales Guru’s Speakout” reaching international distribution which is now translated into several languages. Currently, I’m an active youth entrepreneur mentor, active Economic Development/Planning/Tourism Advisor to the municipal council, Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce director while serving on approximately 10 other mechanical construction related committees. As a humanitarian, I believe in eternal growth and volunteerism, noting over 70 community/leadership volunteer appointments to date.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY WOMAN STARTING IN THIS INDUSTRY ANY ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? WHAT IS THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

Teach people how to treat you, by setting healthy respectful boundaries and lead by example. Know your value without ego and emotion driving you.

Track and measure outcomes which gauge your progress and success while rewarding yourself along the way.

Build healthy respectful relationships that are not disposable, as your network can introduce the most unexpected opportunities.

Give authentically, balance surfaces when you are truly enjoying the fruits of your labour.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE SOME OF THE BARRIERS (IF ANY) WOMEN FACE IN THE TRADES OR MECHANICAL CONTRACTING? 

Let’s start with an internal scope and take ownership – yourself. It’s important to have a sense of belonging to produce your best work in order to contribute to a healthy environment.

External – Know your pioneering spirit, as you enter a predominantly male-oriented industry deeply entrenched in historical tradition in some sectors. As a new professional face, you will carve your own reputation and path based on accomplishments. As a former Status of Women representative, professional female networks represent a supportive and elevating structure I only wish was available when I started my career building.

I welcome the opportunity to link and connect with like-minded professionals!

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

While I don’t work for a mechanical contractor, the majority of my career (19 years to be exact) has been entrenched in the mechanical contracting industry working on MCA Canada’s education portfolio.  Over the last few years I have taken on several new projects which include the development of the Student Chapter program and our scholarship series which has grown substantially over the last year.  The most recent addition to my portfolio is the development of the Women in Mechanical Contracting initiative.  Each program has been full of many rewards. I have met so many amazing people from across Canada and have created lifelong friendships.  I’m truly blessed with the opportunities and achievements that my career at MCAC has offered me.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF CAREER ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Be more confident, don’t settle for less than what you deserve! Get involved in committees…don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, your opinion matters and makes a difference!

WHAT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL JOB YOU HAVE EVER HAD (IN ANY INDUSTRY)?

My background is in education.  Directly out of University I taught grade 3 on a first nations reserve in New Brunswick for two years and spent the following three years substitute teaching in Ottawa. From there I instructed adults in computer technology prior to joining MCA Canada in 2000.

WHO WAS YOUR BEST MENTOR? 

Working with so many different committee members/chairmen over the years has been an awesome opportunity.  To see how much they believe in the industry, their time devoted to making it stronger and well represented is inspiring.  Working for their own companies is not rewarding enough, they care about the industry and want to give back.  They have all been mentors in one way or the other.  Our retired CEO Richard McKeagan and past MCAC Chairman, Terry Billings, were the most influential in my association career development and taught me priceless advice that I use every day.

However, through the WIMC initiative, I am meeting so many inspiring women and can’t wait to learn from them!

MAIN OBJECTIVE OF WIMC?

One of my personal objectives for WIMC is to increase the visibility of women in the mechanical industry. Increasing visibility will increase interest and the involvement of women, in what has been, a traditionally male-dominated industry. Young women may not consider this as a career path if they do not see themselves represented in this industry. As women of the mechanical industry, we need to show others that there is an opportunity here for women.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY?

There is much I like about this industry. I enjoy the variety it has to offer in the people I work with and also the type of work we provide our customers. I also like the idea of building things. I’m proud to think of the projects our team has completed over the years. We have left our mark not only in our city but also in our province and throughout Canada. Most importantly, I find it rewarding in helping our customers. Whether it’s troubleshooting a service issue, maintaining their mechanical system, or completing a project, we are enabling our customers to focus on what’s most important to them…their business.

COMMUNITY GIVE BACK?

If you’re in the position and have the ability, I believe it is important to give back to the community.

As a company, we recognize the importance of bettering our community, which is why we support organizations whose mandates are to assist those in need. Our support takes many forms from fundraising to volunteering to providing emergency supplies needs. We also partner with many of these organizations providing them with their mechanical system maintenance at no cost. This enables them to allocate their funds where they are needed most, helping the people they serve.

On a personal level, I am a member of Project Search’s Business Advisory Council. Project Search is a program through SCE Lifeworks which helps students with developmental disabilities gain essential employability skills for their resumes with the goal to secure competitive employment.

ADVICE TO WOMEN STARTING IN THE INDUSTRY?

Find a mentor. Female, male, it matters not, as long as they have your best interests at heart. Find someone who has experiences to share and someone who will not hesitate to “hold up a mirror” to you. They will be there to provide guidance through the tough times, which will come. They will help you grow both professionally and personally and they will celebrate your successes.