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Follow Your Interests, Not Stereotypes

Follow Your Interests, Not Stereotypes

Posted by Trade Academy

February 15, 2022

Cover image of Genova Izguerra, the only female winner of the 2021 HVAC Scholarship provided by Trade Academy.

Genova Izguerra received the call one day that she had been selected as a recipient of the Trade Academy 2021 HVAC Scholarship, earning herself $2,500 to contribute toward her education expenses. Genova is one of 20 future HVAC technicians receiving such a scholarship this year- she is also the only woman.

For Genova Izguerra, she was determined to follow her entrepreneurial drive while sharing her journey of going to HVAC school with her dad. When she told her family that she was going to enroll in the nearby HVAC program, it was enough to motivate her father to do the same. A talented and experienced tradesperson, her father had always wanted to receive formal training in the classroom and lab. Now both daughter and father are completing their training together as each provides support for the other. 

Genova is finishing up her HVAC training at the HVAC Technical Institute located in Chicago, IL. As a woman, Genova discusses the importance of shaping the rhetoric around the HVAC industry to be more inclusive to female technicians by not paying attention to stereotypes centered around what you see.

Genova’s scholarship application discussed what motivates and inspires her as an HVAC technician and how her father is sharing in the experience. We had the opportunity to speak with her as she shared her experience breaking barriers as a woman in the HVAC industry, her thoughts on how to increase female representation in the skilled trades, and her valuable advice to other women considering a career in HVAC.  

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

It means it will be less of a burden to worry about paying for school because that was a huge deterrent whenever I tried to get into school. Their first questions would be how are you going to pay, and my curiosities and interests were all for nothing if I couldn’t pay. Whenever I see a scholarship opportunity I jump at it and I love that you had the TikTok option, because I’ve been curious about that platform. This was a good reason to hop on and explore that sector which was a lot of fun to create the video, too.

What appealed to you about HVAC that made you want to become an HVAC Technician?

I noticed how often furnaces break down and how expensive that can become, especially if it’s a multi-unit family building. You gotta take care of 3 or 4 furnaces in one place. Also, I did this to help my parents and to lift the burden off their shoulders and just continue doing what they’re doing in a way they’ll be happy to see it done. While in school, I was amazed at the connection between a furnace and a human body. I also work as a massage therapist so I work with the physical body and I’ve been impressed with all the similarities between the heating machine and in a physical human body. I was just amazed.

Why do you think there’s a low representation of women in the classroom, and overall in the trades?

I think it’s the generalization that it’s men that are going to fix the pipe so it’s men that are going to fix the furnaces and there’s not really a narrative out there about women. Just like there’s not much of a narrative of male babysitters. I’ve witnessed in the massage therapy industry that male massage therapists don’t get as many clients because of a certain type of discrimination. You can feel that and it’s present as you can tell things are different and you can be treated differently sometimes.

In your TikTok video from your scholarship application you said, “We need more women in the Trades.” How do you think we can recruit more women to enter the Trades?

At least in the classroom situation, I’ve been blessed with some amazing classmates and an amazing professor. It feels like a good community and it feels that even though I’m the only woman they’re still turning to me if they have questions and I can turn to them if I have any questions. I think it’s who you meet while you’re in school and that’ll really help you out throughout your career. It’s who you meet in the seed stages of a profession that can really help you out in the future, whether or not you’re a woman or a man.

What’s it like going to school with your dad? What was his reaction when he learned you won the scholarship?

We came in together. I’m more studious and YouTube videos were not going to cut it for me when it comes to HVAC issues. So I went in there and started exploring the schools in the city. I found HVAC Tech and that’s how I got into it. I went and asked them questions, got some preliminary information, and once I had it all compiled, my mom said, “What if your dad goes with you?”. My dad looks at me really excited. I’m like, I would love that, that would be excellent.

He’s expressed to me how it’s been difficult because he hasn’t been in school for many, many years. Having me as his classmate and having me guide him through some questions and him helping me, too, because he has some trade secrets that I don’t know yet so it’s been a very beneficial experience overall to be studying with my Pops. He got inspired to come with me and that was a lot of fun. So the scholarship helps because he has to pay for school, too. We don’t worry about more bills and that’s ideal. I let him know I won the scholarship through Whatsapp. I sent him and my mom a screenshot of the HVAC Finalist and they were just super proud of me. I didn’t expect them to be so excited about it, it’s still fresh to me. I’m so glad they were happy for me.

What’s it like entering a male-dominated industry, such as HVAC, as a woman?

I have not come across another female technician. Although, I did see a bumper sticker that read women in trades. I was very impressed by that and I think I’ll connect with them after I graduate. It’s simple for me. I personally enjoy it because I’m usually the only one that’s talking. In the whole evening class, it is just me and there’s two or three classrooms and they’re all men. I’ve made great connections and I can’t even tell that I get treated any differently. I am a technician and I am able to learn and guide others through confusions as well. I think it’s much better having my dad there with me because if he wasn’t there I’m not sure how things would have gone.

What message would you share with women considering entering the HVAC field?

All the ladies out there, if there is a trade that has piqued your interest or you’ve never heard of at all. Do a little bit of research. Find out something that can fit in your life if it’s something you could see yourself doing if you have a genuine interest or curiosity about it. That’s why I’m in school, because I got curious about it and it will help my family. Mostly I was curious. I was interested and I followed that interest without considering the stereotypes, without considering anything that tries to build a wall around my limitations or try to create limitations. I say ignore those and chug forward full speed.

Congratulations to Genova! At Trade Academy, we applaud her desire to follow her interests and curiosity. Her message of researching and digging deeper into the Trades is something we encourage everyone, women and men, to do. If you’re curious to learn more about what a career in the Trades may look like, check out more from our blog. Also if you identify as a woman in the trades, please join the free Lady Pro community of over 2,000 other women making their mark in the skilled trades offering support and mentorship you won't find anywhere else.