10 Questions With Andrea J. Hunt
The consultant (AH) speaks with your author (MJ) about 42 years in the industry, overcoming challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field and more.
MJ: Tell me about your career in the elevator industry.
AH: I began my career in the elevator industry in 1979 with Otis in Cleveland after attending a job fair in that city, where I was supposed to talk to insurance companies about sales positions. I had graduated from college with a degree in Russian Language and worked for a short time as a travel guide in Russia. However, I felt I was up to the task of “industrial” sales, so I stood in the Otis line to sign up for an interview. I met Otis Regional Sales Manager Jim Schautz, who thought my education would be an “interesting icebreaker” with customers. He hired me as a sales trainee, then sent me to a physics course to make sure I understood levers and pullies. I got an “A.”
I worked at Otis for 17 years in service and new construction in Detroit; Syracuse, New York; Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Baltimore. I met my husband, Jim Hunt, also with Otis, while in Syracuse, where we embarked on our elevator journey together for the next 36 years.
After another brief stint outside the elevator industry selling communications programs for Marlin Firearms, Jim and I joined thyssenkrupp and moved our family back to Massachusetts in 1998. In 2004, I plunged into the great challenge of small business entrepreneurship. I started an accessibility and residential company called Patriot Elevator and Lift, working diligently as my own boss until 2008.
From 2008 to 2015, I worked with KONE in the modernization and service departments, until finally settling where I am today at Lerch Bates Inc. as a consultant in the exciting Boston market. I plan to retire this July, and it’s going to be scary and exciting to start a new phase of life. I hope to continue to serve in the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association and keep up with all my friendships in the industry.
Women bring a different and much-needed perspective to almost all situations in business, politics and life, and need equal footing to be heard
MJ: Which are the most interesting projects on which you’ve worked?
AH: In all honesty, I remember the customers, technicians and colleagues more than the projects. I remember the difficult customers who warmed up after I got to know them, the technicians who went over and above to help a customer, and the supervisors and mechanics who taught me about the technical side of the business and provided the backdrop for the day-to-day challenges of this business with humor and cooperation.
I enjoyed getting into all the unusual places that you don’t normally see, like airport control towers, the top of any tall building with an awesome view, private homes of the rich and famous and the dirty tunnels of Boston’s historic subway. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed working on the Four Seasons at One Dalton and the Encore Casino in Boston. The former for the views and the opulence, the latter for the project’s magnitude.
MJ: Describe the bad and good bosses you’ve had along the way.
AH: The boss I had in my first assignment said that women had no place in the elevator business. That did not scare me, as I went on to have some great bosses and mentors, namely Ed Minich, district manager at Otis in Boston, and Ray Keller at Otis in Rochester, New York, among others, who were true leaders with integrity and treated everyone fairly. Good or bad, I learned from each and developed my own methods of managing and problem- solving.
MJ: If you had one chance to do something in your career over again, what would it be?
AH: Patriot Elevator and Lift was successful in that I sold a lot of elevators and lifts and had a good reputation due to the excellent lead mechanic I had. However, after four years, the operational costs, labor, insurance, etc., got the better of me, and I decided to close. In hindsight, I could have figured out how to reinvent the business or make it work, and stuck it out.
MJ: What advice would you give to people coming into the industry?
AH: I recommend they get QEI training, read George Strakosch and read the technical stuff. Brand yourself as an elevator expert — not just a rep for a company. For sales/service people, call customers before they call you, be prepared to answer questions, and always get back to customers with solutions.
I enjoyed getting into all the unusual places that you don’t normally see, like airport control towers, the top of any tall building with an awesome view, private homes of the rich and famous and the dirty tunnels of Boston’s historic subway.
MJ: As a woman, was it harder to succeed or gain recognition?
AH: At the time I joined Otis, there were very few women. Otis was on a campaign to hire more women, so I was often asked to talk to new hires or prospects. After six years in the business, I was promoted to branch manager, so I didn’t have the feeling it was harder to succeed, but the push to hire/promote women didn’t hurt.
However, throughout my career, there has been resistance from many corners — colleagues, bosses and customers — both subtle and obvious. I fought back by being responsive, listening and learning from mechanics and supervisors, getting my hands dirty and just proving that women can do the job. The hard part is being listened to as a female in a male industry, or in the world, for that matter. Women bring a different and much-needed perspective to almost all situations in business, politics and life, and need equal footing to be heard.
MJ: Who are three people you’d like to have dinner with?
AH: Dinner with author Bill Bryson would be educational and maybe too comical to eat without choking; Elizabeth Warren would inspire me to action; and Katie Couric would give all kinds of great health and social advice.
MJ: What are your favorite books?
AH: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and all books in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly.
MJ: What’s on your bucket list?
AH: I hope to travel to Russia and Eastern Europe again, ski in Utah and travel by train through western Canada. With retirement, I am looking forward to accomplishing all of these soon!
AH: I regret not taking more advantage of education and training throughout my career.
From EW Correspondent Matthew Jackson comes the first of what we hope will be many “10 Questions” columns providing a closer look at industry movers and shakers. Jackson selected an outstanding inaugural subject in Lerch Bates Boston-area Regional Manager Andrea J. Hunt. Regrets, she’s had a few, but mostly the recent retiree will look back on a long career that started in a most unusual, remarkable way and was filled with rewards both professional and personal. If you would like to suggest an elevator person for us to feature in “10 Questions” or would like to be featured yourself, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.