Women in ACR - MD Lisa Pogson

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Name:                                   Lisa Pogson

Role and company:         Managing Director, Airmaster Air Conditioning Ltd based in South Yorkshire.

What was your first job?              

First full-time job was on a youth training programme (YTS) as a ‘Girl Friday’ office assistant in an architectural practice

What does your current role involve?    

Supporting  #TeamAirmaster!  We have such a great diverse team working across the industry.  I am so proud to go out representing them all, talking about the types of works and contracts we are doing.  There is an ambassador role too, dealing with customers, ensuring we keep our accreditations up to date, as well as back office too when needed.

What attracted you to the industry?       

My Dad was a lift engineer and family and friends worked in construction.  Most of my working life has been in construction or a related industry.  I never felt I was clever enough to be an engineer, so have always worked in some form of support.  One of my old bosses called support the glue, an invisible line that you think you might be able to get away without using, but when it’s not there, things slowly start falling apart!  My brother in law set up Airmaster and I started working with him part time, helping with the books and accounts. The business grew until I became full time in 2001 as office manager.  At this point I asked if the business would help me finishing my MSc in Management (Resources)  by allowing me some time to work with the growing team.  It was about using Investors in People as a vehicle for changing and growing a business.

What excites/interests you about the industry?

It is ever changing and has become more regulated, due to legislation like the Kyoto protocol and the FGas regulations.  Incidentally, we are assured that whatever the outcome of Brexit, those regulations will still be kept in our laws.  Some of the fines for not tracking and checking, via TM44s and regular servicing are moving from the £20K mark to the £200K level.  The ever-changing refrigerants and the training interests me especially because of my background. I would like us to utilise our vast inhouse knowledge to help train the next generation and we do, through having apprentices, but I often feel that by freeing up a bit more of our team’s time, we could do more.   There is a shortage of interest in the industry: a perception of long hours and working away, but the teams and how they work is amazing. It is hard, but can have good rewards too.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I know, but looking back, if I thought for a moment that nearly 25 years since I started helping with the books at Airmaster I would still be here, I would have gone back and studied so I could apply the knowledge.  I thought that Thermo Dynamics was rocket science – and it was!  However, looking at how thermal loads work in a building and pressure drops and velocities can be fascinating. I truly believe that workplace design is and always has been key to a happy team.  That goes for schools, factories and many other buildings too.   Even in our own homes, if things aren’t working correctly, it stresses us out.  It is just the same.   I was never very confident around complicated maths calculations and it stopped me – I thought it was a dark art!

How would you like to see your career developing?

I want to continue to be an ambassador and an advocate for our fab #TeamAirmaster.  I love being part of the industry and green business nationally.  I can’t believe I’ve been around as long as I have,  through R22 phase out to Ban, the Kyoto protocol, the various new gases.  I would like to see more of the factories where the systems are built and be ahead of the curve.  I would like to get more of our team to see that too.

What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?

Recruitment and training of great folk coming in is our biggest challenge to me.  We even struggled to get local apprentices wanting to be involved.  If we can’t get people in from the beginning, what chance have we got later?  And this is us who spend time going in to local schools speaking, going to exhibitions where the school- age kids are doing science clubs and competitions around engineering.   People tend to fall into the career through family.  In my view, key to any building is the services working in the best way possible, working efficiently, therefore being cheaper.  I would like to encourage people to consider building services industry as an interesting place to be.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?  

My first boss used to tell me all the time to ‘Write stuff down!  You won’t remember everything.  Make a list’. Now I make lists everywhere.... too many!  She is still around and is amazing at 70 plus, what a role model.

What are the best things about being in your role? 

Working with a passionate team, knowing that everyone is trying their best to do a great job.  I was so proud when I collected the RAC Cooling Awards ‘Contractor of the Year’ trophy at the end of last year, on behalf of the team.  It was a great day for us. 

What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the ACR industry?

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.  Let’s see more of those folks coming through – not just women!  Confidence is key.   What is hard now, will be worth it in the end.  More companies are struggling to recruit and are having to look at their benefits across the organisation.  This is not just for women either, training and continuous development is so important.

I am passionate about more women coming into the industry, and think they can help in lots of areas, and particularly on the design.  Women are often great mathematicians.  It was a woman’s calculations that helped to get the USA to the moon, why not to plan thermal loads in a building?  We have a shortage of mechanical design engineers and similar, often they just need to keep on with the course, as they are the only girl or woman in the room.  I know it is hard, but it is often confidence that stops it.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m just weird that I find it interesting to see how the big jigsaw fits together?!


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