04 August 2022
Mel Summers is the UK marketing manager of refrigerant specialist Climalife.
What was your first job?
As with perhaps many of us within the cooling industry, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school back in the 90s. In those days, school did not spend a lot of time career planning and so I naturally gravitated towards similar careers to my parents. I stayed on to do my A-levels but knew that university wasn’t for me, so I left school and took an accounts job working for a life insurance company in Bristol.
It was whilst working that I advanced my studies and secured a role as PA to the managing director of a large marketing company and where I went on to discover my love of marketing. I quickly moved into a Campaign Manager role and achieved my marketing degree. Through the years that followed, my marketing career accelerated, working both client and agency side, picking up new skills and experience. As the teams that I managed grew, I was also able to share my experience with them, helping them on their own career journeys - something I find hugely satisfying.
Fast forward to September 2013. Working long hours, commuting 2-3 hours every day and mum to a seven-year-old, I decided it was time to put the brakes on, get life’s priorities back on track and focus on spending more time with my family. I was so lucky to discover Climalife (IDS Refrigeration) who offered me a marketing role with the flexibility I was looking for and with opportunities to develop new skills, complementing my experience to date.
What does your current role involve?
Nine years on and I haven’t looked back. I am now the marketing manager for Climalife in the UK, working closely with customers, the UK team, as well as colleagues from around the world. Our activity spans anything from advertising to articles; from webinars to face-to-face events and from social media to training. No two days are ever the same and every day I strive to learn and be the very best that I can be. Climalife really does support its staff with great training and development opportunities.
What attracted you to the industry?
I had never considered how cooling touched so many of our daily lives until I joined this industry and it enthuses me to see the awareness growing with initiatives such as World Refrigeration Day, as well as the acknowledgement we as an industry gained at the height of the pandemic. I find one of the most satisfying parts of working within our industry is the simple understanding that cooling supports the food we eat, the health we strive for and the digital expectations we take for granted.
When I told my colleagues in the financial world that I was going to work in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry they looked at me with horror. “Isn’t that linked to all those horrible gases that are damaging the ozone layer?” they said. At the time, I didn’t know a lot but I was aware that the industry was already on a journey towards using better products and technologies and so I knew there was a perception challenge that had to be addressed.
What excites/interests you about the industry?
I love to see how the industry is evolving both in terms of the number of women and the recognition being given to the vast expertise held. I have also been lucky enough to get involved in projects that support our new generation of engineers coming into the industry, through the RACHPskills competition as well as Climalife’s own college speaker programme. Training is such an important aspect supporting the future of our industry and Climalife is well placed with its vast technical knowledge in supporting this going forward.
How would you like to see your career developing?
Every day is a growth opportunity for me. Whether it is speaking to a customer to better understand their needs or learning how to deliver a webinar to hundreds of viewers, my role gives me the space to spread my wings. As a management team, here at Climalife, we are incredibly well supported through mentoring and developmental training.
With strong family values, Climalife is very much about supporting and developing everyone to achieve their full potential and recognises that, with the right support, the younger team members can be the future leaders of the company. Whilst I have always been ambitious, I see growth in so many different ways now. It’s not just about a job title anymore, it’s about recognition, support, flexibility, trust and responsibility… and so much more.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
There are two pieces of advice that I have followed me throughout my career. The first is a question I ask myself when spending on behalf of the company: “If it was my money, would I buy it?” The second is to never be afraid to ask the question and never assume anything.
I am very lucky at Climalife to be working with so many technical experts and we all work closely when creating marketing material and articles. I work on the basis that before I can write about something, I need understand the detail. And if I don’t, how can I expect my reader to understand.
What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?
I see two big challenges within our industry and they are both interlinked. The first is the speed of change and the second is training. The world is changing and the pressure to reduce the use of high GWP refrigerants is increasing. New equipment is being introduced but sometimes, the refrigerant decisions being taken are not as fully informed as they could be. It is no longer just about the GWP of a refrigerant, it’s about the energy efficiency of the system as a whole, and the longevity of the products being specified for use. Training from companies like Climalife is available to really support this. Having also been involved in activity with the colleges offering training to our engineers of the future, I often hear talk of how much value is placed on the trainers and I feel more could be done to support and recognise them and the future training for our industry.
What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the ACR industry?
I love working within our industry. Whatever our gender, the industry is friendly and welcoming and it is good to see it becoming more diverse as the years go on. I was really encouraged to see more females competing at the RACHP skills competitions this year and would love to see more awareness of jobs within our industry accessible to younger age groups. Initiatives such as STEMazing for example are a great step in exciting our engineers of tomorrow.
At the recent National ACR & Heat Pump awards in Leeds I was lucky enough to meet with a great bunch of women who have all achieved great things in this industry. This can only grow and get better and it’s good to see acknowledgement and recognition shared all round.
Is there a little-known fact about yourself that would surprise other people?
I really love music and as some of my colleagues will know, I am a huge Simple Minds fan. For those that are too young to know, they are a band from the 80s, still touring today and still have a pretty big following. After a concert, my best friend and I can normally be found at the stage door waiting to meet the band!! I love live music and recently had the opportunity to visit Glastonbury – an experience that will stay with me forever! Alongside this I also play the piano, I love to read crime novels, and get out with the family in the open air with our dog Dexter.