Claire Sharples

7 October 2010 – Siemens’ Jessica Haycroft and Claire Sharples, are two of a small number of  young women starting to break into the traditionally male dominated world of building services.

Haycroft likes to think she is bringing a new perspective to the provision of energy efficiency and sustainability in commerical buildings.

Currently working at the six-star Green Star ANZ Headquarters in Docklands, Melbourne,  Haycroft says that the role has allowed her to work towards her vision, to put into practice innovative ideas and apply principles of sustainability.

“In a very sustainable and sophisticated building it is important to have a problem solving and fault finding mindset,” Haycroft says.

“I’ve completely re-organised the maintenance schedules [at the building] so that they run more efficiently. I’m now servicing all of the equipment in one part of the building, as opposed to servicing equipment all over the building in one day. This saves a lot of time and resources.”

Haycroft started her career working in the building technology industry as an electrical apprentice, which soon gave rise to several opportunities to hone her expertise within the heating, ventilating, and airconditioning or HVAC sector.

“I initially started my career with an electrical apprenticeship through VICTEC, a training organisation and employment agency which placed me in various electrical roles. In my last year, I finished my apprenticeship with Siemens and continued in my present role as a full-time service technician for HVAC systems.

“The great thing about the role [at ANZ Headquarters] is that I had already a familiarity with the building due to some of the work I did in my apprenticeship.. which I feel was instrumental in me succeeding in this job.”

So what is it like to work in a traditionally male dominated industry?

Haycroft says there are several inherent strengths that women can use to contribute and succeed within the the realm of HVAC.

“Generally speaking, women have a lot to offer in the electrical field. There is a real calling for attention to detail, a thorough approach to paperwork, ability to multi-task, working in an orderly manner and most of all, I feel the service industry is particularly attractive to women as it offers less manual work and more customer interaction,” she says.

And what about the future of the HVAC industry?

“I see a strong future for the HVAC industry as every building will need heating and cooling. The bigger opportunities I feel will be in the environmental space where keeping comfort levels while reducing energy consumption will be key. There are also plenty of opportunities for old systems requiring upgrading. The industry seems to be getting stronger and stronger.”

Another female success story at Siemans is that of their project manager of building technologies, Claire Sharples, whose eight years of experience in the industry has included a role project managing the Crown Casino L39 saloon fit-out.

Having worked for Siemans for the past four years and currently project managing a job in Industry Solutions for CSL Biotherapies, Sharples has been inspired to approach her role through a sustainable perspective, always probing for opportunities to cut electricity and water usage in buildings.

“Innovation is only limited by people’s imagination,” says Sharples.

“At CSL Biotherapies there is always room for innovation with respect to improvement in efficiencies which may involve power or water-saving initiatives. I am passionate about sustainability, and luckily being actively involved in design decisions allows me to promote this agenda.”

While Sharples admits that the building technology industry still remains a male dominated one, she says that the increasing number of women entering into the industry is helping to bring a more diverse outlook.

“The interesting thing is that I have not encountered many women in the industry, but I find that those I have worked with bring a diverse point-of-view and a different perspective within the team.  It is very important that a team comprise of many types of people,” she says.

“There is certainly capacity for women to grow in this industry; I have rarely encountered a person who thinks otherwise.”

As a young women in an industry where women are a small, albeit growing minority, Haycroft says that there are ample career opportunities for women to embrace in building technology that are often not on the radar of recent female graduates.

“I think there is a need for more awareness as there are incredible opportunities for women in this industry,” says Haycroft.

“I think more information is needed to make women become more aware of the opportunities they have in the trades. Everyone, regardless of their gender, should be empowered to pursue whatever career they are interested in.”