Women in Construction: H.J. Pertzborn

H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection opened in 1928 by current President Joe Pertzborn and Vice President Jesse Pertzborn’s great grandfather Henry Joseph Pertzborn. This fourth generation family business is committed to fixing your plumbing problems quickly and protecting your property.

Madison Area Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors Association (MSC) and Madison Association of Plumbing Contractors (MAPC) are kicking off the annual Women in Construction Week, March 3-9, 2019, with a little insight into the women who work for H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection.

All three of the women that we spoke with hold management positions at the company. Teresa Hamilton is the Purchasing/Inventory Manager and started with the family plumbing and fire protection company in 2003. Sandra ‘Min’ Hilsenhoff joined H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection in 2013, and is the Service Department Manager. Ashley Kleven is the company’s Business Manager and started in 2014.

Teresa Hamilton, H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection

Hamilton worked a summer job with a fire protection firm while she was in college. After she graduated and taught chemistry for a year, she realized she missed working in the trades.

“I recognized, not only did I enjoy learning how things worked scientifically, but I also (enjoyed) how things were built and made,” explained Hamilton.

Hilsenhoff turned to plumbing during the economic turndown in 2008 after she was forced to look at a new career path.

“My job was eliminated and I was on a quest for something new,” said Hilsenhoff. “I had some experience from working in my brother’s small, single plumber shop years ago. I looked into the plumbing as I enjoyed the work.”

Kleven turned to the plumbing industry following a 10-year career in the sports industry. Her brother is a foreman in Milwaukee, and she knew the industry was continuously evolving with a lot of career potential.

Each day at H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection is full of challenges, excitement, a lot of multitasking, and a fast-paced, rewarding environment.

“I really enjoying helping others and in this roll, I not only help our Project Managers run a successful job administratively (behind the scenes), but I also get to help the business as a whole,” said Kleven. “I am here to help streamline processes and procedures to make them more efficient and effective for our team.

Hamilton explained, “For me, the most rewarding aspect is that others can count on me to help them achieve their task or goal. I am a “go-to” person, because they know I will get the job done and that is really what I enjoy: helping people.”

Min Hilsenhoff, H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection

Customers are key to the company’s success, and Hilsenhoff finds helping them to be the most gratifying aspect of her job.

“Sometimes you get a customer who is so genuinely happy and grateful and they let you know how much your guidance, or patience, helped them through something that may have been harrowing for them,” said Hilsenhoff.

Every job and career has its challenges, but there are additional challenges for women in the construction industry.

“The obvious challenge is the mindset that construction is a “man’s profession”, which, early in my career, I encountered,” expressed Hamilton. “Just starting in the industry, I would ask questions and seek understanding of new concepts, which some viewed as lack of competency and ‘a reason why a woman shouldn’t be in construction.’

‘But as I grew professionally, I learned such was the mindset of a small group of people. Additionally, sometimes it was the working environment I was in that continued such a way of thinking. Luckily, I belong to an organization where that challenge doesn’t exist, and I couldn’t be happier to see people excel in our company regardless of gender.”

As women continue to break down the stereotypes of working in the construction industry, there is a new generation of women graduating from high school and starting their careers.

Ashley Kleven, H.J. Pertzborn Plumbing and Fire Protection

Kleven’s advice for women interested in joining the construction industry, “Never let your gender or the type of work environment discourage you! Those two factors should never play a role in your success. Being successful at any job is being a team player, working hard and giving your all! I started at HJP with no knowledge of plumbing or fire protection and because of my willingness to learn and ability to take on new responsibilities, I am where I am today.”

Hamilton has two pieces of advice, “First, explore various aspects of construction – there are many different trades and careers within those trades. It is OK to start on one path and find your true career on another.

‘Second piece of advice: let your work ethic, knowledge, and desire to learn demonstrate to others your aptitude as those qualities aren’t defined by one’s gender. By possessing such qualities, your abilities will stand out and will earn you respect among peers and trade professionals. Don’t get discouraged if you encounter someone who still has the mindset that construction is a ‘man’s world’. I have learned such a mindset is becoming less common today. Let your talent speak for itself.”

These three ladies have had different career paths that have led them to work at H.J. Pertzborn, but they all love what they do and where they work.

Kleven said, “I love working for a company that appreciates the efforts of its employees and I am proud to say that I work for H.J. Pertzborn – a family run business, celebrating 90 years serving Dane County and the surrounding communities!”