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Catie Ball Makes Friends Wherever She Goes

Trane account manager is making big inroads in Boston.

Catie Ball has embraced engineering, and the people who practice it. A Trane account manager in Boston, Ball loves the problem-solving but is particularly adept at building relationships. In just a few years, she has leveraged her outgoing personality to help clients, rise in the Boston ASHRAE® chapter and build a network of fellow women engineers. On the side, she practices a unique art form: neon sculptures.

Catie Ball is not your stereotypical, introverted engineer. Even as a youngster, she liked to talk people up. "I was the person everyone was telling to be quiet so the teacher could start class," said Catie.

Though not always welcome in the classroom, her outgoing personality helped Catie advance at Trane, where she is now an account manager in Boston. Still, engineering was not her first choice. Early in undergrad, Catie thought about becoming a surgeon. She loved chemistry, and medicine seemed like a good path.

"It took me one semester to realize it wasn't what I wanted to do," said Catie. "I don't do well with blood, so med school wasn't going to be for me."

She went on to get a bachelor's in materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin, but she wasn't sure where to go with it. She didn't want to spend every day in an office behind a desk.

Catie first encountered Trane at a career fair and was intrigued by sales engineering, which would combine her problem-solving skills and extroverted personality. She had already endured several dry, boring interviews – this was not one of them.

"When I walked in, the first thing the Trane recruiter said was, 'I love your blazer,' and we gabbed for 10 minutes before actually diving into anything," she said. "It was an easy introduction to Trane, and I felt super comfortable with the rest of the interview."

The Internship and Beyond

Trane invites promising candidates to participate in summer internships so both sides can assess the fit, and Catie aced it. She started as an estimator for the Trane equipment team and particularly enjoyed traveling to Clarksville, Lexington, and Pueblo to learn more about the equipment. It was eye-opening to see so many products up close for the first time.

In late 2020, Catie was poised to make the leap to account management when an unforeseen opportunity came up. Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Trane's Graduate Training Program (GTP) held a remote cohort, and she could participate from home. The program gave Catie even more information about Trane and its sales program, as well as insights into building the business.

"Trane has great products; everyone knows Trane," said Catie. "But a lot of my job is creating a network and being a trusted advisor who helps people feel comfortable about designing and purchasing around Trane equipment. You could be the smartest person in the room, but if you can't develop a relationship with the customer, that technical knowledge can go right out the door."

Catie loves that every workday is different, and the industry and market are constantly evolving. She particularly enjoys her work on decarbonization, including electrifying hospitals, labs, and schools around Boston. She helped design an early network coil system, which recovers energy from the exhaust air leaving a building.

"I got to dive in and learn that software over the past year," she said. "I found it super exciting to work with something in its beta phase and become one of the unappointed subject matter experts in the office."

A Posse of Women Engineers

Catie is part of a new generation of women engineers advancing through the industry. While this has gotten easier in recent years, she learned early that being a woman in a historically male-dominated field can be challenging.

In Boston, she frequently runs into women engineers. And because she's all about community, she's happy to build those relationships as well.

"The world is changing, and I am fortunate enough to have customers that employ a ton of female engineers," she said. "Often, when I meet a woman in the field, it's like we have this shared bond."


Bending Neon Lights

Catie studied art in high school, but because engineering classes were so consuming, she gave up art during college. However, during her senior year at Wisconsin, the art department sent a campus-wide email to recruit non-art students, and she started taking “Neon: Intro to Light”. She loved the class and has continued to work in the medium and pursue her interest in art outside of work hours.

Catie bends the glassware to a pattern. Once shaped, she leak tests it, much in the same way air handlers must be tested to ensure no air is getting out. Then, neon or argon gas is added to the tubes and combined with a small amount of mercury to create different colors. Not surprisingly, she suffers for her art, enduring multiple cuts from the glass shaping.

"It's the most finicky material ever," she noted. "It's easily broken, especially when you're heating and bending it."

Assuming a Leadership Position at ASHRAE

Catie has also been quite active in Boston's local ASHRAE® chapter. Last year, the treasurer position opened, and she was ready to take that on.

While this new role has required a bit of a learning curve, she is really excited about the opportunities to meet new people and expand her industry knowledge. The Boston ASHRAE chapter holds monthly technical sessions for continuing education within the HVAC industry. She particularly enjoys the speakers, including a refrigerant expert from Trane.

"Even for that presentation, I learned so much," said Catie. "The learning part has been great, but the best part is how it expands my network. There's so much more out there."