Women in ACR: Rebecca Smith of Beijer Ref


14 June 2023

Rebecca Smith is UK Sales Manager for FridgeDIRECT and Beijer Ref Academy.

What was your first job?

Telephone sales at the Blackpool Gazette newspaper, selling advertising space to local businesses.

What does your current role involve?

Wearing my FridgeDIRECT hat I work with a specialist sales team based at Beijer Ref Leeds. My team are here to support customers looking to purchase refrigeration equipment with added value. My main role is to ensure that my team are happy and supported. In turn, it enables them to offer our customers an excellent service. This excellent service is so important to me, it always has been and always will be. We are constantly looking at ways to enhance our value added proposition to customers and to offer much more than a traditional wholesaler. Box shifting isn’t for me, my team or our customers!   

One of my core value added propositions is the planned network of Beijer Ref Academies. The industry and the products we sell are fully supported with hands-on training, from F-Gas to basic electrical to natural refrigerants. We broke the mould here and it is my responsibility to spread the word!  

What attracted you to the industry?

I accidentally fell into the industry 18 years ago and I have never looked back. I started as a salesperson for an industry magazine and I was very fortunate in having Dean & Wood as a customer. I applied for and was successful in securing an opportunity to move into the world of refrigeration and air conditioning sales and 12 years later I am enjoying it as much as I did on my first day. 

What excites/interests you about the industry?

The main thing for me is that every day is a school day. The industry has been changing quite fast in recent years and the fact that I can be part of this change is fantastic. I feel I am making a real difference to the future of our planet through the products we sell and the training we can provide. I love the world and feel everyone should be doing their own part to protect it.  

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How would you like to see your career developing?

I am an ambitious individual and have been fortunate to have had many different roles within Beijer Ref as part of my development path. My current role is massive with endless opportunities as the industry embraces the change into natural refrigerants.  

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Always ask questions, reflect on the answers, then ask more questions. There is a wealth of knowledge out there to be drawn on so tap into it.  

What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?

A common question with often a common answer! For me the challenges are in protecting our environment and to do this a large investment in training is the key to success. Talking about investment in training is one thing, having the belief and financial capability to do it is another. It is clear from what I am hearing that the industry wants to get away from box-ticking training programmes and to get into hands-on training. 

Another big challenge, particularly in refrigeration technical positions, is diversity. We simply do not attract enough women into this industry. Women should not fall into the industry like I and many of my colleagues did. I am passionate about recruiting more women into the industry and do my bit in my own business to make sure it happens. Others need to do similar!

What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the ACR industry?

In the words of Nike, Just Do It! I did and never looked back. Don’t be put off by the perception that it is a male dominated industry. We are in 2023 and my post man is a post lady, my bin man is a bin lady and my technical support team includes both male and female. The change and acceptance has been a long time coming and the industry is not adapting fast enough, though the positive change I have seen since starting in the industry all those years ago is immense. Everyone I cross paths with tends to be engaging and willing to speak with me, being a woman has never been an issue. There is not a large pool of industry female CVs today but there will be, mark my words! 

Is there a little-known fact about yourself?

When I was much younger, I was a judo champion in the North West! I also love raising money for Brain Tumour Research, a charity close to my heart after losing my dad to the disease in 2021.