Some view the HVAC industry as a male-dominated industry. However, many women wake up every morning and play a role in changing that perception.
The ACHR NEWS wanted to highlight and honor some of those individuals, so we have created the Top Women in HVAC list. All of these women have made a mark on the HVAC industry and continue to do so. While they serve in different areas of the industry, each is making a contribution to both improve the industry and make it a more welcoming career for females.
The ACHR NEWS plans for this to be an annual list.
“This is a great collection of women,” said Kyle Gargaro, editorial director of The ACHR NEWS. “Although we could only honor 20, we received over 400 nominations. It gives us great pleasure to honor these individuals for the important roles that each play in the HVAC industry.”
Top Women in HVAC: Tonya
Title: General Manager
Company: Arizona’s Dukes of Air
Educational Experience: Degree in Business Management
Industry Work Experience: 15+ years
- 2020 Inc. 5000 list for fastest growing company in US
- 2800+ Five Star Google Reviews
- 525+ Five Star Yelp Reviews
- 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 Best a/c contractor in Gilbert
- 2019 & 2020 Best Home Service Contractor in Gilbert
- 2019 & 2020 Best A/C contractor of the East Valley
- 2019 Finalist – Gilbert Medium Sized Business of the year w/ Gilbert Chamber
- 2016 Best Family Business per Gilbert Chamber
What caused you to/when did you to enter the HVACR industry?
My husband John and I were born and raised in the Midwest, and the general vibe of trades, including HVAC, was very different there. When we moved to Arizona, we really wanted to make a positive impact in the industry and our community by being the local, go-to, trusted air conditioning and heating company. Our mission statement really says it all: “We will revolutionize the perception of the HVAC contractor, one customer at a time, through our unyielding commitment to developing a culture of excellence within our organization. We genuinely believe in doing what is right and gaining customers for life, not just a job!” John and I started Arizona’s Dukes in 2012 as a one-van operation and have grown it to over 40 employees.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in HVACR?
I love having the ability to reinvest in our community — supporting local charities, schools, and organizations. We recently assisted a Mesa police officer who was struck and severely injured while attempting to remove debris from the highway and, 10 months later, was still dealing with the lingering injuries. Not only was Officer Stoddard dealing with his recovery, but the HVAC units in his home had stopped working and the scorching heat of the Arizona summer was upon us. I knew something had to be done, so our team worked with Trane to have two replacement units donated, and Dukes of Air donated the labor to install the HVAC units. It is these feel-good moments that touch my heart and allow us all to feel proud and privileged while supporting our community.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I can’t really dial this down to one specific moment, so here are a few. It’s the moment your employee tells you they finally have the funds to purchase their first house and you realize that you helped them meet that goal. Or the first time you see a parking lot of orange trucks and it makes you take a step back. A step back to reflect on starting with one truck and working around the clock to turn that one truck into 30 trucks. It’s the moments you can say “Wow — we did this!” Those are the proudest moments.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?
A personal example of a challenge that I’ve faced in the field was handling a difficult customer who struggled to comprehend my knowledge in the industry. No matter what I said, he wasn’t hearing it and demanded to talk to my husband. John (my husband) shared the same information that I had; however, this time the customer agreed completely and was satisfied with the answer. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s frustrating.
How can we increase the number of women in HVACR?
Awareness. It is true that the industry is heavily dominated by men; however, there are more women today than five years ago in our market. I believe it all starts in our high schools and the awareness that we create. Although climbing in attics or onto rooftops might not be for all of us, it’s an industry that is needed everywhere, and one where men and women will always be needed.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
Every day is different. It’s all about juggling hats and prioritizing what needs to be accomplished to ensure that we are taking care of our customers and our team.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I am driven by my team and the positive customer reviews. It’s the success stories of our installs or the customers day that we made by fixing their broken a/c timely when its 115° outside. It’s the dollars that we contribute to our community. You must wake up and be excited for your day.
What remains on your HVACR bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
Be the first company that the community thinks of when they need HVAC in our market.
What advice do you have for prospective females who are considering entering the HVACR field?
The sky is the limit, and the opportunities are endless. No matter where life takes you, chances are you will need a/c and/or heating in every part of the country. Your services will always be needed. I feel proud to have started an HVAC company from the ground and turn it into a multimillion-dollar revenue generator.
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