This is the latest in a series saluting women in the plumbing and HVAC trades, from manufacturing to turning wrenches in the field. As the trades face a shortage of skilled workers, it’s essential to attract, train and promote more women. If there is a woman you think is worthy of recognition, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Terri McMahon is proof that knowledge gained is never wasted.
Twenty years in commercial plumbing sales was great preparation for her current job as purchasing manager for U.S. Engineering, a large mechanical contractor with offices in Colorado and Missouri.
“Having spent so much time on the sales side, I know that business inside and out,” she said. “As a result, when it comes to buying, I know all the back doors to get the job done.
“I know what the market is and what we need. I know how pricing structures work. I know exactly how much we should be paying for something,” she said.
She buys everything from sheet metal and copper tubing to PVC pipe and fittings. One of the most demanding parts of the job is following the markets and even international trade relations to determine what to buy when in order to get the best price and ensuring jobs aren’t delayed because the supplies aren’t in stock.
McMahon began to acquire that knowledge working for Wholesale Specialties, a plumbing distributor in Denver. She started as a single mom raising two kids and acquired more responsibility through hustle and hands-on learning.
“My approach was I may not know the answer, but I know where to get the answer for you,” she said.
She developed a professional network in the plumbing and HVAC industries in the Denver area. She did experience some sexism along the way, but overcame her doubters by “killing them with kindness, and getting the job done!”
She joined U.S. Engineering in March 2020, just in time to help the company meet one of its biggest challenges.
At the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, the company was a subcontractor on the emergency construction of a 250-bed field hospital in the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver to treat patients recovering from severe cases of COVID-19.
Thankfully, the facility was never needed and has since been dismantled, but being part of the planning and effort that went into it was immensely gratifying, McMahon said. U.S. Engineering, which won a state Award for Construction Excellence for its work on the project, relied on Viega press fittings to get the work done quickly and securely, she said.
“I’m very proud of how we were able to shrink months of work into a few weeks,” she said.
Helping the company and its clients save money through her judicious purchasing is another source of satisfaction, she said.
Like many women who have been in the field for a long time, she’s gratified to see more women entering the industry in many roles: “It’s exciting to see and I know the numbers will increase.”