For Sheila Hayter, President of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), life is all about creativity.
The Honors College hosted Hayter for a master class called “From the Classroom to Global Influence” on Feb. 19. During this interactive class, students had the chance to engage with Hayter in a small group setting. Hayter took a variety of audience questions on topics ranging from finding a job in a saturated field to fighting the fear of failure.
Hayter studied mechanical engineering as an undergrad at Kansas State University and went on to complete a master’s at the University of Colorado (CU). Companies in the petroleum and defense industry often recruited graduate students from CU. However, none of these fields appealed to her. Rather than accepting an offer from one of the recruiting companies, she became involved with her campus’ ASHRAE student branch.
During her childhood, Hayter gained an awareness about our impact on the environment. “It drove me to want to do something with my career that had a positive impact,” Hayter said. She began working for environmental causes and became an engineering ambassador. After graduating, she reached out to the network she had built to start looking for jobs. From there, Hayter climbed through the ASHRAE ranks until she reached her current presidential position. Along the way, she also became an ASHRAE fellow, distinguished lecturer, and a research advisor for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Hayter’s experience as both an undergrad and a graduate student means she knows a lot about excelling in college and beyond. Her answer to the question of how to stay motivated in college was that “there’s always slumps!” Hayter encouraged students to get involved on their campus while learning to work together with others. She also recommended that students pursue laboratory research or internships to fill out their resumes.
In regards to jobs, Hayter said to “be willing to spread your net wide. Don’t stay too narrow and decide that you’re only going to do one job.” She told students to stay creative and keep trying things until they figure out what they like, as well as work with students from other fields to explore their interests. Hayter also emphasized the importance of developing leadership skills while in college in order to stand out during job interviews.
Hayter also discussed struggling through feelings of self-doubt and learning to grow both as an engineer and as a person throughout her career. Her final words to students covered seizing opportunities and maturing from learning experiences: “Not succeeding is part of life… but how you respond to those situations is an example of your ability.”