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ASHRAE Boston Diversity Highlight

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

In this month’s ASHRAE Boston Chapter Newsletter, ASHRAE shared some stories from people in one of the largest diversity groups in their chapter, women. F&T’s Deanna Adkison, EIT, LEED G and Erica Norquist's interviews were highlighted, check out their responses here!

Deanna Adkison, Project Manager

1. Why or how did you get into the industry?

I have always been a big math fan since early in life then in high school I became interested in architecture. One of the prerequisites to the architecture class was a drafting class which included an introduction to engineering, mainly mechanical. During that portion of the class we had to design and build simple machines. I realized there was a lot of satisfaction in coming up with a concept, designing it, building it, and having it WORK! There is a problem solving stage between building something and having it function that took patience and perseverance and I found that I enjoyed that stage. This ultimately lead me to pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. While in school, I found a job as an administrative assistant at a bridge contracting company. Little did I know, this taught me some valuable tools and gave me some insight into the construction industry. Long story short, all of the things I enjoyed and learned while going about my educational and professional path merged at some point and I found myself in the HVAC design world.

2. What opportunities has being involved in ASHRAE provided?

ASHRAE has provided me a way to be more involved in the industry and has been invaluable for networking. Especially earlier on in my career, it was nice to start to socialize with people in the industry and feel like I belong. There are many learning opportunities at the monthly meetings with the presentations. Being involved in the committees has helped me improve my soft skills and confidence in participating in meetings. It was intimidating (and still can be) going into project meetings when I was the only female at the table. I think ASHRAE has helped a lot with the anxiety of being in a crowd where I don’t know anyone and has helped me find my voice

3. What is your insight or something you would like to share about being a minority in the AEC Industry?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. I think the more authentic you are, the more you feel comfortable, and the better your work will be. Try to know your strengths and weaknesses and be vocal about what you want and don’t want out of your career. If you really like doing X but not Y, then don’t just go about doing Y because you feel like you have to. I love this industry because there are so many different hats you can wear and paths you can take, but you need to have an idea as to where you are going in order to get there. Try to seek someone out who is in a position that you want for yourself in 5 years, ask them be your mentor. Having someone to guide you along the way will help you get where you want to be.

Erica Norquist, Mechanical Designer

1. Why or how did you get into the industry?

I attended college at Wentworth Institute of Technology, where I was required to do two co-ops as part of my Mechanical Engineering curriculum. For both coops, I worked at Fitzemeyer and Tocci Associates as a Mechanical Design co-op on the HVAC team and instantly was engaged in the environment and culture. The environment valued teaching and development and took great pride in their program. I was able to learn how to use my mechanical knowledge from school and use that in a professional environment, which drew me toward pursuing this industry post-graduation. After graduating from Wentworth in 2019, I began my full-time career at F&T as a Mechanical Designer.

2. What opportunities has being involved in ASHRAE provided?

I began getting involved in ASHRAE within the first few months of my professional career through Deanna Adkison, Project Manager, at F&T. From this relationship, I’ve had many incredible opportunities to network with people from other parts of the industry and grow my knowledge from the education opportunities. As part of the Women in ASHRAE/Diversity in ASHRAE committee I’ve been fortunate to get to know some very talented and successful women in the field, which has helped me see opportunities where this field could take me.

3. What is your insight or something you would like to share about being a minority in the AEC Industry?

Talk about your identities with your colleagues and network with other people that share the same identities as you! Both as a female engineering student and young engineer in a male dominated field, imposter syndrome has made me second guess my talents. I’m so fortunate to work with a supportive HVAC team at F&T and be part of an overall work environment that always reassures me that I belong and can thrive in this field. This combined with networking amongst such talented women in the industry has made a strong impact on me early on in my career and has given me confidence in my skillset and ability to grow in my career in engineering.


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