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Tuesday 13 November 2018
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Dominating A Traditionally Male Field : Jennifer Pender Petersen

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Susan DeLoach
Meet Jennifer Pender Petersen, the HVAC General Manager at Pender Brothers, Inc. in Port Royal, South Carolina. Through hard work, perseverance and education Jennifer has been able to pioneer her own place in this traditionally male dominated field. We recently caught up with Jennifer and caught a glimpse of her world.

Are you a native Beaufortonian?
I was born in Columbia SC, and my family moved here in 1984 and I have been here ever since. I graduated from Battery Creek High School, I met my husband here and both our children were born here. I consider myself a native by now!
How did you get into the HVAC/ heating and air business?
I have been working at the family business, Pender Brothers, for twenty years, and I have been in our HVAC division for nineteen of those years. Pender Brothers, Inc was established in 1985 by my dad and my uncle, Jimmy and Johnny Pender, but the HVAC side wasn’t added to the business until in 1996. I started out doing scheduling, parts ordering and other administrative tasks. Six years ago, I was given the opportunity to become the head of the HVAC division and have had my family’s support the entire time.
Being younger and a female in a leadership position has had its struggles. It has taken time and effort to gain the respect of my team, and in order to gain more technical knowledge I have taken as many training classes as possible. I always try to do what’s best for our team and for our customers.  Our working conditions at jobs are far from luxurious, so I try to make it out to different jobs and crawl around in crawlspaces with them, inspecting duct work, and go into the attics. I try to do some of the same things my team does. The bottom line is I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. We are an eleven member team, and they are my extended family.
What are you currently involved with in your field?
I am going through the HVAC program at TCL (Technical College of the Lowcountry), which I started last year. It had been a while since I have been in a classroom but this is not an online course, we attend class and there are hands on labs where we do training. I am the only woman in the class, which is not really a surprise as the field is mostly male dominated.  I have become use to being the only female, or one of only a few other women, at training classes.
What is a typical day for you?
Summer is always crazy. We have the schedule set by the end of the day.  I get in to work between seven to seven fifteen in the morning and by eight its 52 card pickup because the schedule has changed! The hardest task is juggling the scheduling, which is all about trying to get every customer satisfied in a reasonable amount of time. The most satisfying part of my day is helping our customers. It’s a really good feeling being able to provide the service that makes their life more comfortable. If a customer has problems with a system we installed, I will take the issue to the distributor to get our customer the best result possible.  We treat people the way we want to be treated by doing the right thing.
Industry Recognition 2017 Bryant Circle of Champions
I was very honored to be included in the 2017 Bryant Circle of Champions, and even more honored to have been awarded the 2018 Bryant Medal of Excellence, one of only fifteen in the nation (that’s only 2% of Bryant dealers in the country) to be so recognized. Because Bryant is a sponsor, I will be going as their VIP guest to the Indy 500 race in Indianapolis. I get to bring my husband, who is an electrician and not in the HVAC field. He is such a good guy, he texted me a picture of a tee shirt that said “I’m her plus one” because that’s normally what he tells people at any HVAC function!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That last year I sat for a six hour exam and became a Licensed Mechanical Air Conditioning Contractor.  I also passed my N.A.T.E. test this spring, so now I’m N.A.T.E. certified like my technicians.  (North American Technician Excellence.)
What would you tell women interested in your field?
This is a great industry to be in, and I believe women bring a sense of finesse to it. Women don’t need to be scared or afraid to try the HVAC field. I will say that it is important to have support and help at home because it can be a 24/7 job.
When you have free time what is your favorite place in Beaufort?
That’s easy, being out on the river with my family. We like to walk along the mud bank and look for old bottles, go fishing or just cruise around and find a sand bar for the boys to play on.
Introduce us to your family …
My husband, Christian Petersen, is the owner of Petersen Electric. He is my rock, my biggest fan and biggest support. We have two sons, Gavin age six and Reese age two.
Due to my work and school schedules I do miss some things but I am always working on achieving that ideal work and life balance. As my son Gavin says – “If it’s hot, call Mommy!”
Pender Brothers offers quality air and expert HVAC service for your home. We know air conditioning and heating is important to your family. We also know the air quality of your home is equally important. We provide our customers with expert installers, knowledgeable, experienced technicians, that are N.A.T.E. certified and friendly customer service representatives.
Our mission is to provide our customers with assistance that far exceeds your expectations. We strive for excellence in all we do and settle for nothing less. We do this all at a fair and reasonable upfront price. All of our team members are equipped to provide you with the service you need in a courteous manner.