31 March 2022
Victoria Haslett is an AutoCAD technician for specialist HVAC supplier Exi-tite, based in Northern Ireland. Exi-tite was founded in 2013 and has grown to be one of the leading HVAC solution providers to the construction industry.
My career started when I went to South West College, Omagh, to complete a Foundation Degree in Architectural Technology and Management. At this stage I wasn’t sure what line of work I wanted to follow but I knew I wanted to do some type of design within the construction industry. During my time at college, I completed work experience within the Fermanagh District Council technical office and building control. I really enjoyed my time with the council as I gained good experience in office and on site. After two years I completed my foundation degree and was awarded the CIOB award for top construction student in Northern Ireland. I then completed my Honours degree at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. In the past two years, I have been back to the University of Ulster to give design presentations to the third year architecture students.
During my last month of university, I got offered a job with Severfield NI based in Ballinmallard. Severfield is a leading steel company in both the UK and Irish markets. My role was a steel detailer and I carried out 3 months’ work experience on a large site in the centre of London. This was a brilliant experience and really helped me develop my skills in the construction industry. It was very challenging as a woman to take on certain jobs on site but it was very rewarding once achieved. On-site tasks consisted of organising lorry slots for deliveries, handing over completed areas of steel, paint and decking, problem solving by creating DWG drawings and creating on site drawings.
When I moved back to the office in Northern Ireland my job was to liaise with the engineers and project managers to detail steel buildings. My on-site experience made it easier to understand what I was detailing and to create well developed drawings for the site erectors and fabricators to follow.
As a steel detailer I modelled and connected steel frame buildings to carry out general arrangement drawings for consultants and site. All drawings were carried out on a 3D software so we had a complete 3D model at the end. After 5 years I moved to my current job with Exi-tite.
I changed from the steel industry to HVAC, which was a completely new path for me. I have been enjoying the new challenges and I love the fact that I can be working on a different project every day.
My current role within Exi-tite is an AutoCAD technician. My main responsibility is to carry out electronic technical drawings using AutoCAD and Revit software. I create drawings for different departments within the company, including air conditioning, air handling units, chillers, ventilation and the digital department.
My day-to-day role involves working alongside the LG sales manager to complete AC designs and selections for different projects. If requested from the customer/consultant, I would develop a LATS CAD drawing to illustrate the design in more detail. LATS CAD is a software programme which has been created by LG as a plug-in to AutoCAD.
What would say to other women thinking of working in the HVAC industry?
I would encourage you to go for it! There are so many roles to choose from and, with Covid, the HVAC industry is getting more important which means there are more job opportunities. During my studies within the construction industry there was a very small percentage of women within my class but now this has increased as more women are taking an interest. As a woman within this field, I wouldn’t say it has been all plain sailing but over the years I have seen a massive improvement.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
One of my managers used to say ‘it’s only a mistake if done twice’. Others that have stayed with me include ‘every day is a school day’, ‘don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure’ and ‘be honest, people will respect this more’.
What do you see as the challenges facing the industry?
One of the main challenges within the industry now is dealing with price increases. Also, stock shortages due to delays at customs borders, leading to transport issues and delays of deliveries to site.
Is there a little-known fact about yourself that would surprise other people?
Outside of working hours I have a keen interest in music. I have been playing the piano and tenor horn since I was 7-years-old. I started teaching the piano as a part-time job while I was studying and still do. I then decided I would like to try playing the saxophone… I am no professional but I love a new challenge and I am enjoying learning this new skill. I also trained in 2019 as a nail technician… this brings out my artistic side and gives me something to do in the evenings which I enjoy.