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Company focus Jan 13, 2022

People you can rely on: Celebrating the women of Reliable Controls

The women who work at Reliable Controls are praise-worthy every day of the year—and especially in March. Women's History Month is an opportunity to share experiences, challenge each other to think and act differently, and encourage more women to join our industry. We’re sending a huge thank-you this month to these five women, who strengthen our team with their talents and unique personalities.


Miranda Lotz, applications developer

Reliable Controls is proud to have rich cultural diversity among employees, internationally as well as locally in BC. Miranda Lotz, one of our applications developers, left South Africa in pursuit of a better life for her family. We're glad Victoria's mild climate lured her here!

"In South Africa there's a lot of tension, mainly around race and religion, and if you don't fit in a certain mold, you're not accepted. We didn't want our kids to fit into any mold. For the road we want to walk, Canada seemed like the best fit." One of Miranda's priorities was to live where people care about recycling and the well-being of our planet. It's serendipitous that our HQ is also based in Victoria, so Miranda could find two new homes in one city. "After my first interview I didn't apply for any more jobs. Right from the get-go I liked everyone I met," she says.

Starting a job during a pandemic comes with its own challenges. Luckily, feeling connected to her coworkers wasn't one of them for Miranda. "Everyone made me feel accepted from the beginning. When I met people for the first time in the office, we grabbed each other and hugged. Is that very Canadian?"

Miranda has been navigating cultural differences since arriving on the island, from doubting whether to tip the gas-station employee for fueling her car to appreciating Canadian politeness and how much we follow rules. Aware her South African directness may seem harsh to some, she picks her words carefully. She applies that same intentionality to her work. The applications Miranda develops streamline internal processes at Reliable Controls.

Logical, structured thinking is another skill that helps her succeed. If someone asks Miranda for a check box in a user interface, she asks questions until she understands what the check box will trigger. Without fully grasping the purpose, she can't correctly write the code. She likens this exercise to a math equation that needs to be broken down incrementally to reach the answer. From there she reverse-engineers the process and returns to the beginning.

Expecting she would enjoy coding the most, Miranda was pleasantly surprised to discover how much she loves the diversity of her job. One day she'll support HR to implement Bamboo, a new management system; the next day she'll help the Operations team with Great Plains, their inventory system. "Not everyone gets to deal directly with their users. It's really rewarding to see the immediate effect I have on colleagues' work. They're extremely thankful."

Miranda didn't always know what she wanted to do career-wise. In her thirties she started over, arming herself with a bachelor of science in information technologies and interning as a developer at a private health insurance company, where she worked for years. "I get very attached to jobs," she says. "I've never left a position for anything other than moving." Her advice to women joining the field: Just do your job. If you were hired, it was with good reason. Work hard, and it will pay off.

We hope you and your family continue to enjoy Victoria, Miranda. We're thrilled you joined our team!



Jenny Wagner, eLearning developer 

When you have an eclectic skill set, you may not know how things are related until the pieces come together. For Jenny Wagner, 9 years of dabbling in different degrees (marketing, engineering, teaching) and a diploma in business administration culminated in a career that calls on all her talents. As an eLearning developer, even Jenny's love of video games inspires her work!

Jenny first joined Reliable Controls in 2012 as a temporary receptionist. Less than a year after her contract ended, she was invited to join our Finance and Administration team, where she spent 3 years. As much as Jenny loved her colleagues, she craved a chance to flex her creative muscles. Her transition to the Marketing department was a natural next step.

At Reliable Controls we believe in putting the right person in the right job; if the position doesn't exist yet, we create it. When Nathan Wilson, manager of the Training team, asked Jenny what she liked and disliked about her work, he saw potential for her to become an eLearning developer. The demand for online training material grows as quickly as our company does, so adding a developer to the then one-woman team of Terry Bell was no luxury.

In addition to instructor-led training, Reliable Controls supports affiliated technicians, salespeople, and building operators with self-directed eLearning opportunities. Our subject-matter experts collaborate year-round with developers (Jenny and Terry) to grow our online library. Last year, 8,134 people watched our operator videos, and 3,972 exams were submitted across 18 courses.

For the past few years, Jenny has honed her eLearning authoring skills and is increasingly familiar with our products. Though she's not required to think like a controls technician, the quality of her interactive course material depends, in part, on her ability to simulate how students work with our software and controllers. "It's important I understand my target audience," Jenny says, "to envision how they might experience the course and what would make it easier or more enjoyable for them to work through."

She recently wrapped up a project that will hopefully bolster students' confidence as much as it did hers. "Creating the Controller Database Exercise [now a prerequisite to our coveted Level 3 Authorized Dealer certification] was such a great experience. It really helped me grow!" In addition to developing eLearning, Jenny also coordinates the Training department's administration. Course registration questions, invoicing details, and general inquiries fill her inbox daily.

We look forward to seeing what you create in 2022, Jenny. Thanks for all your hard work! 


Jody James, purchasing supervisor

What do you call someone who’s an expert at anticipating needs, has mastered the art of negotiation, and thrives on efficiency? We call her Jody James, our purchasing supervisor. Jody may have stumbled on her career by accident at age 18—having started on a drop-in line, stuffing boards—but after years of working in electronics and aerospace, she's happy her path led to Reliable Controls. We're proud of what a great job she does, especially during such unprecedented times!

Pre-pandemic, the Purchasing team reviewed requirements on a Monday and placed an order for the next 3 weeks. Now they need to predict the next 2 years. "The whole industry was built on a ‘just in time' philosophy: Distributors and manufacturers had a certain amount of backup stock on their shelves that enabled us to respond to a very predictable and manageable time line," says Jody. "The pandemic completely changed that. Certain parts and raw materials flew off the shelves as quickly as toilet paper."

Panic buying creates false demand. Thanks to the solid relationships Jody and the purchasing team have with suppliers—who warned them of the changing tides—they were able to adapt our purchasing habits much earlier than most, which carried us through 2021. "Suppliers are amazed to hear Reliable Controls even launched a new, next-generation product when others are scrambling to find alternate parts for their current designs," says Jody. "We wouldn't be where we are if we hadn't listened to our suppliers and trusted them."

How did Jody develop such loyalty? By not walking away from suppliers at the first sign of problems. "I like to make sure I'm understanding and do whatever I can to help them succeed, too," she says. That means not shying away from conversations and asking questions until she has all the information. When cultural differences lead to misunderstandings, she employs patience and compromise. "If you're open to learning why a company does things a certain way and are respectful of it, you can avoid frustrations that sometimes come with this industry."

Making informed decisions is a catchphrase in Jody's department. As a team of expeditors, forecasters, and buyers, it's essential they stay on top of things—in all time zones! If Jody needs to place a purchase order at 1:00 AM, that's what she does. Receiving products on time matters to our customers, so securing parts matters to Jody. "We have a responsibility to make sure everyone is taken care of," she says.

As a supervisor, Jody also has the privilege of caring for those on her team. A younger Jody experienced firsthand how a few well-timed words could boost her confidence for years to come. She’s keen to pay that forward and says, "Amazing things happen when people feel free to be creative." Jody's advice to succeed in purchasing: persevere. Pay attention to details. Respect processes without getting stuck by them, and actively look for alternative solutions. Mental agility will really help you excel.

Not long ago Jody received her 5-year anniversary coin. She has every intention of growing her collection. "This is the most unique place I've ever worked. I've never been this respected," she says. "This is where I want to retire."

People and technology you can rely on isn't just a slogan at Reliable Controls, and Jody proves that every day. Thank you for your dedication, Jody. It doesn't go unnoticed.


Lindsay Smith, accounting and group benefits administrator

For an extroverted introvert like Lindsay Smith, alternating between solo and social tasks is a win. Lindsay is either immersed in accounting responsibilities or explaining group benefits to new employees. Pre-pandemic, Lindsay moonlit as a conference coordinator and helped plan Interconnect—the biannual international networking event for Reliable Controls dealers. As a numbers aficionada, Lindsay was the ideal person to manage registration and organize events. While dealers attended meetings, their spouses and children enjoyed activities curated by the conference committee.

Lindsay is a joy to speak with. If you share a story with her, she remembers and follows up in the future. Even in emails to collect on accounts, Lindsay seizes the opportunity to personalize the contact. Her genuine interest in others makes her a natural at relationship building—a handy trait to have as a receptionist, which is what Lindsay did for her first 5 years at Reliable Controls.

Everybody wore multiple hats in 2003 when Lindsay first joined the company, then a team of 30–40 employees. "I think it's good to help people out whether or not it's your job," she says, "and I really like learning new things." Lindsay's assistance spanned multiple teams, from Training to Operations and Accounting. Today the company counts 200 employees, and every task Lindsay handled is now a full-time position. Lindsay still isn't done learning. She recently started an advanced accounting and finance certificate.

It's not uncommon for Reliable Controls employees to have spent most of their professional years here and have no ambition to leave. Lindsay's team of "lifers" work well together—and not just because they're all so efficient. "I don't just think of people as coworkers, I think of them as friends," she says.

Lindsay is very good at what she does. She's confident of her skills and comfortable sharing her ideas. When asked which of her achievements she's most proud of, she says it's "when someone feels good after I've helped them." How lovely is that!

Reflecting on jobs Lindsay had prior to joining Reliable Controls, she's still saddened by the lack of respect she encountered. "I felt judged for how I looked, because of my body type." She hopes today's generation, looking to start their career, feels empowered to stand up for themselves. "If you're ever made to feel 'less than' in an interview because of your appearance, say thanks but no thanks. You have the right to be you, to be different," she says. "Bust out of the box!"

Lindsay, we're grateful for who you are and what you do. Please keep shining at Reliable Controls for a very long time to come!


Melanie Thiessen, software developer

Many Reliable Controls employees had never considered (or even heard of) the building automation industry before joining the company. Melanie Thiessen, one of our software developers, is among them. And yet her skill set—an unconventional combination of fine arts and website development—adds to our success every day.

The Software team's job is to solve difficult functional problems with building automation system solutions that are simple, flexible, and sustainable. Straddling the disciplines of development and design, Melanie transforms technical complexity into intuitive functionality by leveraging the advantages of eye-pleasing visual designs and using form, color, and context to guide users how to use the software. "It takes great skill to make the software easy to use," says software manager Richard Mosher, "and this is where Melanie excels."

Understanding Reliable Controls products is no small task for anyone who joins the company without prior knowledge of building automation. Our dealer certification training taught Melanie a lot about our controllers, software, networking, and Authorized Dealers. "Imposter syndrome is real," she says. "Most of the time I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and yet I'm doing it. When I talk with other people in the field, regardless of gender or background, they assure me the feeling is normal. We're all learning together."

It's no secret the building automation industry is (still) male dominated, and the same can be said for software development. This begs the questions: Are there fewer opportunities for women to enter software development, are they not applying for jobs, or are they just not being hired? Melanie would like to see more women and non-binary people in her field and at Reliable Controls—and so would we!

Acknowledging implicit bias is the first step in challenging it. Reliable Controls hires and promotes people based on ability and performance, however they identify. As the company grows and new positions become available, we hope to attract diversity among applicants. Our work culture thrives thanks to the positive mindset of our people. To us equity and inclusion means treating each other fairly and with respect. Will you be our next hire?

Melanie's career in software development began at a non-profit in Calgary. "I prefer to work for a company that benefits society in some way," she says. We're thrilled she chose to join our team of sustainability-driven professionals. If you're considering a career in web development, Melanie says it's easy to get started with free online resources or a fulltime program. "Just give it a shot!"

Thanks for being an inspiration, Melanie. You're proof creative skills can be employed in unexpected ways.


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