News | April 1, 2019
Simon Will Be First Woman SMACNA National President
Paving the way is nothing new for Angie Simon, president of Bay Area-based Western Allied Mechanical.
Paving the way is nothing new for Angie Simon, president of Bay Area-based Western Allied Mechanical. Whether it’s on a construction site or the baseball field, she’s always worked and played alongside the guys. “I’ve always been a team-player”, Simon said.
In October, she will become the first female president of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
In college, at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Simon played NCAA softball and was one of only two women out of 100 environmental engineering students. After earning her degree and becoming a mechanical engineer, she began working at Western Allied Mechanical as a project manager. At the time, the company had three women working in the technical side, which was progressive for more than 30 years ago.
Still, Simon bumped up against obstacles in the field. Once, in her early career, Simon recalls a particularly challenging design meeting that took place with steel workers in the field.
“I would go to job sites where there were very few women in the subtrades,” she said. “About a year into working at Western Allied, we were doing a big project—an eight-story building in San Francisco—and they had a very first meeting.” She added, “I was walking into the trailer with my foreman and it was packed with steel workers…a guy told me he ‘doesn’t do girls in the trailer. We are not having this meeting until you leave.’”
Simon stepped out with her foreman and navigated the situation, but at the time said she didn’t know she was breaking the glass ceiling.
“During my first board meeting with national SMACNA in 2007, I did not ask or know that they had never had a woman on their board,” she said.
“After the first meeting, three other guys came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t know a woman could know that much about air conditioning.’” She added,
That’s when it started hitting me that I need to go out and start educating people.
Angie Simon, President
Today, thanks to Western Allied Mechanical’s policy of “hiring the best person,” the company has nearly 40 percent women on its technical side. And Simon is a huge proponent of reminding women how rewarding and profitable a career in the trades and engineering can be. “It has awesome opportunities,” she said.
“It’s a great place to be, and you can do this job if you want to.” Simon said it has been “really neat” to see how excited her peers at SMACNA have been about her election to president. She said since she first got involved with the organization at the local level nearly 20 years ago, SMACNA has offered value. “I’ve learned so much from all the contractors,” she said, “and it assists us in our negotiation with labor partners.”
Although still president elect, one of her broad goals for the organization is helping local areas address workforce development, recruitment and retention. “We want to put together some toolkits to help the local levels with recruiting both union and nonunion staff,” Simon said.
“We also really want to make sure the industry, our owners and the people we work for are aware that our contractors are very professional and well educated and all of our installations are high quality based on SMACNA standards.”
Simon also said they want to do advocacy work to help influence public policy regarding energy efficiency and indoor air quality initiatives and “would encourage infrastructure work, which means more work for us as general contractors.” Lastly, she plans to continue efforts to attract and retain women in the industry.
“Nine percent of construction is women, but when you look at our trades, it’s 2 percent,” Simon said.
“If you look at our manpower and you would double the number of women, it would bring a lot of people into our trades.” She added, “By doing that, it would help with the shortage of workforce as well.”
Jack Knox, president of Georgia-based RF Knox & Co, has known Simon for more than a decade and said she is one of only a select few in the industry whom he would go to for counsel. “Her knowledge of the industry is second to none,” he said.
“Her passion for the industry is undeniable, and her willingness to teach and give back is evident by the fact that she will be the first woman to become president of SMACNA national.”
Yindy Felkins, P.E., LEED A.P., DBIA reports directly to Simon at Western Allied Mechanical and called her a “standout leader.” “She has a passion beyond the business to promote HVACR to the next generation,” Felkins said. “In my past 16 years of experience working for her, she always provides support and guidance to lead me to success.” She added, “She is also a great listener and advisor and values my opinions and feedback.” Simon said she gained her leadership philosophy through playing sports and seeks to “lead by example.”
She also says a leader should be the one to serve others. “It’s not about you being on top,” she said. “It’s helping others around you perform.” When she’s not helping her team succeed, Simon enjoys being part of another team—a baseball team, which she plays on along with her husband Michael. And as has been the case for Simon time and time again, she’s one of just two women playing with 70 men.
“Sports have been a big part of my life,” she said. In fact, Simon met Michael on a basketball court and the couple spent their honeymoon at the Giants Fantasy Camp in Scottsdale—a camp they’ve now gone to eight times. The couple has two young adult sons, Alex and Ben, and resides in Redwood City, Calif. When they aren’t on the baseball field, they often go to the stands to watch their beloved Giants play as season ticket holders. They also have San Francisco 49ers season tickets.
Simon also gives back to the industry in her free time as the vice chair of the New Horizons Foundation, which is a nonprofit for the sheet metal industry.
“I love our industry,” Simon said. “I’ve always been somebody that if you like what you do, you will do it well.” Still, in sports and in the industry, she always knows there is room for improvement. “I don’t know it all,” she added. “You need to learn something new every day.” SMACNAwill soon launch a new podcast called “Shop Talk” hosted by Simon.
About Western Allied Mechanical
Western Allied Mechanical stands on the cutting edge of HVAC system design and operation. We combine innovative thinking and technologies with intricate engineering to create, build and maintain comfortable, energy-efficient environments.