20 Questions

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20 Questions

20 Questions with Katie Davis

VP of Engineering & Technology at Trane

Originally published
Originally published: 4/1/2023

Managing Editor, Heather Langone, interviewed Katie Davis, Vice President of Engineering & Technology at Trane Technologies. She spoke of Trane’s strong commitment to energy and sustainability, being a Master Jedi, and her commitment to fostering talent.

1. Where is the best place to relax in North Carolina?

North Carolina offers some of the most beautiful places to wind down – cool mountain air, warm sandy beaches, and going to the Symphony in Charlotte. My favorite place to relax is Lake Norman. 

2. Are you a dog or cat person?

To say that I am a dog person is an understatement! I am the proud owner of 9 Siberian Huskies. I adore all animals, with dogs having a strong hold on the #1 spot. 

3. What’s your secret ambition?

I love being an engineer. I am blessed to have been given such fantastic opportunities to have a career doing what I love to do. A fun secret ambition – to be a Master Jedi. I am quite a Star Wars fan. 

4. Who is your role model for excellence?

My grandmother – she was a Rosie during World War II, an amazing woman. She taught me to be inquisitive, to think outside the box, and to never stop learning. Her positivity always opened doors to solving problems, and she was quite the technology fan, well into her 80s!

5. Do you have a philosophy that you live by?

Be the very best version of yourself, and you will set the world on fire.

6. What drew you to engineering when you were young?

My father was a welder, and he was a master at repairing and building things around our home.  He encouraged me to be curious. I was always fascinated by how he used tools and techniques to bring his ideas to life. With his encouragement, I developed a great interest in all things mechanical. 

7. How did you get into the industry?

Before my time at Trane, I studied Engineering at Mercer University. Going through engineering school, it was typical to be one of the only women in the room. In my first-ever position in the industry, I saw elements of myself in the female Vice President I interviewed with, which solidified my decision to pursue a career in a traditionally male-dominated space. 

8. You’ve been in leadership roles a long-time, what business principles guide you when you manage the team?

As many mentors did for me, I strive to foster the same “yes you can confidence” in aspiring male and female engineers that an Engineering Director with Trane once sparked in me. 

9. How do you effectively communicate with your team? 

Effective communication happens when a leader can connect with the team in a way that fosters trust. 

10. What has been your most recent "the buck stops here moment"?

I don’t know if there was one moment. However, a professor once gave me the advice to stay laser-focused on developing talent. I am focused on inspiring my team and I know it starts and stops with me. I take that responsibility seriously. 

11. What is Trane’s climate commitment to clean energy?

We are committed to reducing our customers’ emissions by providing innovative, energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions. We joined the Gigaton Challenge and are well on our way to our goal. Trane surpassed the requirements for the Department of Energy’s Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge. 

12. What advancements will there be in heat pump technology in the next three years?

Trane’s Cold Climate Heat Pumps shall employ a refrigerant that has a GWP of no more than 750, per the requirements of the challenge. While each of the A2L refrigerants has specific competing advantages and disadvantages for cold-climate heat pumps, the right refrigerant is the one that provides the best value for our customers. These heat pumps will utilize R-454B, a Low GWP refrigerant.

13. How has Trane been able to surpass DOE requirements for Residential Cold Climate Heat Pumps?

When tested at the DOE’s lab, the Oak Ridge National Lab Facility, Trane’s CCHP prototype performed in temperatures as low as negative 23 degrees Fahrenheit, surpassing the mandatory negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit DOE requirement. Our prototype pushed the limits of the testing with high performance even as temperatures moved beyond the trial scope. To stop our Trane unit, they had to manually cut the power. 

14. When do you expect the results of your newest heat pump trials?

We’ve moved to field testing. The DOE may decide to extend the field trial testing into a second heating season.  If this is the case, we will participate in the second field trial and should have the results by the end of 2023.

15. What trends are emerging for high-efficiency heating?

Climate change and urbanization are two macro trends that are influencing the need for high-efficiency heating.  These trends influence the industry and consumer perspectives on the reduction in carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.  

16. Are the 2030 Sustainability Commitments attainable?

Absolutely!  We are well on our way to meeting the Gigaton Challenge, which is reducing our customers’ carbon footprint by 1 gigaton.  

17. Trane set a long-term goal of Net-Zero carbon by 2050. Are there big steps to accomplish this or a series of small ones?

Our strategy is grounded in our sustainability commitment as a company. This strategy involves long-term goals as well as short-term goals to meet the commitment by 2050.   

18. What is the importance of playing the long game in the climate and energy initiative?

As we continue to innovate and deliver energy-efficient solutions through the electrification of heating and heat pump technology, we know that the world’s need for higher-efficiency solutions will continue to grow, and we are ready to meet the demand. We are in this for the long haul.   

19. Besides mandates, can you explain the importance of the industry in understanding the need for a collective commitment to cleaner energy?

One industry can change the world. Through initiatives like the Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge with the Department of Energy, our industry has the unique ability to join as partners and advance technology to provide solutions that reduce emissions for our customers and the world. 

20. What advice do you have for contractors managing businesses regarding clean energy?

Get on board with the innovation that is happening around higher efficiency equipment and electrification of heating. It’s important to stay informed. We stay in constant communication with our partners to keep them informed and up to speed on the latest government-mandated regulatory changes, tax incentives, or other opportunities to provide homeowners financial relief to upgrade to more efficient products.

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