March 2021

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An Interview with Erin DeFrieze. Application Engineer and Manager, Professional Services, Lynxspring
marcMarc Petock
Chief Marketing & Communications Officer,
Lynxspring, Inc.

Contributing Editor

INTERVIEW– Marc Petock, Contributing Editor Automated Buildings and Chief Marketing and Communications of Lynxspring sits down with Erin DeFrieze.

Erin DeFrieze

Erin was part of last March issue with this great article

Mentoring: A lasting Impact   Being a mentor is a lifelong position that doesn’t stop when you leave the office or job site.  - Erin DeFrieze, Manager, Professional Services / Application Engineer, Lynxspring, Inc.


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Petock:     What is your current role? How did you get here?

DeFrieze:     I am currently the manager of the Professional Services department at Lynxspring. After 20 years in the field as an Application Engineer, I decided it was time to come inside.  I wanted a position that would allow me to continue to develop my own skills while sharing the knowledge that I had gained over the last couple of decades.

Petock:    What does your day-to-day job entail?

DeFrieze:    No two days are ever the same. Aside from the responsibilities of managing the day to day of the professional services group, I also spend time quoting projects for our National Accounts, OEM accounts and partner offices.  I still take the time to work on various projects to keep up with my skillsets, and I am looking forward to stepping in and taking part in teaching our Niagara N4 classes.

Petock:    Erin, what caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering related to buildings?

DeFrieze:    I started off as a 6-month fill-in to help with the family business; the sales guy had to take some time off for a personal reason, and I was asked to take a short sabbatical from my job at the time to help during his absence.  What I found was that I truly enjoyed the ever-changing environment and the challenge that working with BAS and mechanical systems posed.  That 6-month stint was in February of 1998, and the rest is history.

Petock:    What drives/motivates you every day?

DeFrieze:    I enjoy puzzles and challenges.  Our industry is full of both.  Whether is it trying to make two systems talk or coming up with a better way to operate an existing system, there never seems to be a lack of something new.

Petock:    What has been the proudest moment in your career journey so far?

DeFrieze:    Wow, this is a tough one.  I have had a few.  I think the one that really stands out at the moment is having been nominated for a few Control Trends awards last year.  I was up for Woman of the Year and Tech Support, both of wish I am incredibly proud of.  Although I did not win in either category, I find it to be an incredible honor to have been nominated, and then to have my peers vote for me in both categories was just humbling.  The Woman of the Year was one thing, but the Tech Support was even more humbling.  That category was full of my male peers, and to stand toe to toe with them and have others acknowledge the work I have done was amazing.

Petock:    What’s one thing no one knows about you?

DeFrieze:    Hmm if I share that then everyone would know it.

Petock:    I understand working in this industry is a family affair, tell me about that?

DeFrieze:    My father started as a pipefitter in the late 60’s and eventually became an engineer and purchased his own company.  In those early years while he was a sales guy, I could be found tagging along with him on job sites.  I was known for collecting turtles in my hard hat at the age of 3. As I mentioned earlier, I started with my dad back in 1998 as a salesperson and quickly moved into an Application Engineer position. My younger brother also worked with us as a Journeyman Pipe Fitter. Today, I am at Lynxspring, my dad is retired, and my brother is with another mechanical shop, but I now have my oldest child, Alexis, working with me at Lynxspring.  She is an intern with the professional services group while attending the University of Missouri Columbia.  

Petock:    Who have been your mentor(s) and have helped you succeed?  Describe how they have shaped your success.

DeFrieze:    I have been fortunate to have had a few amazing mentors during my career.  As we discussed earlier my father was very influential in my start down the path I am on now, but I would say that one of the earliest and best mentors I had was a gentleman by the name of Larry.  He was a member of the tech support group at what was then Seibe Environmental Controls.  Larry taught me how to work my way through programming issues and how to approach a project. I was both demanding and generous with his knowledge. To this day I still look up to Larry.  I was also very fortunate to work in a shop that had our own union electricians.  The electricians took the time to show me how different items worked and the best way to install and wire systems.  They showed me the difference in what works on paper and what works in real life.  Even now I consider myself to have been and continue to be extremely fortunate to have some amazing people in my professional life.  I think how I approach sharing my knowledge and my interactions with others are the biggest things that my mentors have shaped in me. We need to be able to teach those who are coming up in such a manner that encourages them to love the industry and make them want to be a contributing part of the future.

Petock:    What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example? Why aren’t there more women in building management engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?

DeFrieze:    I have been around this industry for over 20 years, and I still feel as though there are some inclusion issues.  We do see more women in the business, but those women tend to hold roles such as sales, marketing, accounting, and support positions. There is still a gender gap with the people in the field.  Whether it is as an application engineer, an HVAC technician, a union electrician, or pipefitter; these positions are typically thought of as male roles and that stereotype is hard to overcome.  We are seeing a renewed trend to encourage our youth to consider a position in the trades, but these campaigns are still targeted towards young men.  We need to see more women coming forward and sharing their career success stories. We need, as a society to invest in our young people and encourage both young men and women to consider a job in the HVAC / Building Automation industry; an industry that is virtually unknown.  Our world is invisible to the average person and yet it directly affects them everywhere they go; we need to be drawing more attention to the industry and what exactly it is we do and what it impacts. We cannot be the only ones that chuckle when we walk up to the door and find it standing open due to over pressurization or try to leave a building and must heave all our weight on the door due to lack of makeup air; we should share the laugh!

Petock:    What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in our industry?

DeFrieze:    I think it would have to be the constant changes and challenges.  No two buildings are ever the same. To be able to walk on a site and to learn a building and be able to react to its needs is amazing.  I have said before that our work is invisible to the average person, to be invisible means you were successful and are good at what you do.  No one will ever complain if the environment around them is working and comfortable, they will never notice and never know what it took to get to that point.  I know, I worked with other as a team to get to that point. I know how easily it could all change and I know how to respond to that change to become invisible again.

Petock:    What remains on your engineering bucket list that you have not accomplished yet?

DeFrieze:    That is tough to say, I have worked on so many buildings and I have completed just about every type of integration I can think of. I find that I have reached a point in my career where I enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge with others. I truly enjoying seeing someone I have mentored now picking up the torch and working on these buildings that I have loved working on over the years.

Petock:    What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?

DeFrieze:    Be comfortable with who you are and what you know.  This is a tough field to get into as a woman and there will be many challenges both due to your gender and due to the type of tasks we perform. You will have to have a good sense of humor and have thick skin to roll with the punches.  Find a mentor that you can confide in as they will be your best support and guidance as you grow in this field. As with many things in life it will take time and you will prove yourself, never lose faith in that.  When the time comes be a mentor to those that come behind you as your mentor was to you.  The only way we succeed is by picking each other up as we move closer to our goals.

Petock:    If you really want to get to know Erin, walk the floor with her at a AHR Expo. What an experience. Talk about “geeking out”!                                                                                 Erin, thank you for your contributions to our industry.

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