Before joining Western Allied Mechanical, where she has worked the past 31 years, Angie Simon had early ambitions of either becoming a forest ranger, an energy engineer or a physical education teacher. She managed to be involved in two of the three at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo by playing on the NCAA Softball team for all four years and majoring in Environmental Engineering with an emphasis on HVAC and Solar Energy.
At Cal Poly in the early 1980s, the School of Engineering had less than 2-percent women in the program. Angie was usually the only women in class. Her first job was working for a small design/build mechanical contracting firm. She always was a “hands-on” person, so being a design engineer was not suited to her capabilities nor expectations.
Desiring to move to a larger company, Angie then became a project manager at Western Allied Corp. in 1987. She excelled at project management and in 1995 was offered partnership in the company. With the backing of her husband, she accepted. There were some challenges along the way trying to raise two boys with her husband while being an owner in the company but things were never dull.
Western Allied, renamed as Western Allied Mechanical in 2003, is an $80 million-per-year union mechanical contracting firm employing 225–250 people. Notable projects include the Packard Foundation Green Headquarters, one of the largest net-zero buildings in the US, which produces more energy than it uses; Gilead, a research-based biopharmaceutical company; various Apple and Google projects; and many projects at Bay Area colleges and universities, such as Stanford.
One story that Angie shared was about an early challenge in her career. She was a young project manager on an eight-story San Francisco bank building in the early stages when the steel was initially being installed. She and her foreman attended a meeting on site in a small job trailer. When she walked into the trailer, the room full of men came to a stop. The older superintendent said, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” She replied that she was the PM for Western Allied, but he answered, “I don’t care who you are, I will not have a girl in my trailer.” It was strikingly clear that men like him didn’t believe women belonged in this industry at that time. But now, more than two decades later, she would never let that situation happen.
While Angie has never considered herself to be a “trailblazer,” she’s broken many glass ceilings for women in the industry. She was the first woman on the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) National Board in 2008, the year she also became the first woman president for SMACNA’s Bay Area chapter, where she’s still a board member to this day. After serving her four-year term on SMACNA’s National Board, Angie was asked to return on the Executive Board and agreed to do so in 2016. She’s currently serving as Secretary/Treasurer and, in October 2019, will become the first woman President in SMACNA’s 75 years.
Angie joined Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE) about three years ago, feeling she wanted to start mentoring more and wanted to make more of an impact by joining various organizations. She wants to share her story, and also our WCOE story.
Angie read and agrees with WCOE’s position paper. She definitely sees a real need for WCOE, especially in the Los Angeles area, for women engineers and operators on the technical side of construction.
Angie and her husband, Michael, have two sons – Alex, 22, who just graduated college, and Ben, 19, who is a sophomore in college.