Women in Construction: Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection

Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection started in 1977.  Ten years later, they became the first locally base company to offer fire protection.  Over the last 40 years, Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection has expanded their reach throughout Madison and Dane County, and in-house with over 100 employees and three buildings.

Madison Area Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors Association (MSC) and Madison Association of Plumbing Contractors (MAPC) closes out Women in Construction Week, March 3-9, 2019, with a special feature on the women of Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection.

Kara Kraemer is a Project Manager Assistant with Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection and has been working in the construction industry for the last six years.

“It was a fast-paced environment and learning about a different industry that drew me in,” explained Kraemer.  She also finds the ability to learn something new on a regular basis very rewarding.

It has been 17 years since Lisa Reiter began her career in the construction industry, and has been with Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection for the last four years as the Human Resources Manager.

“It feels like a natural fit for me, and I cannot picture myself in any other industry quite honestly,” exclaimed Reiter.

From left to right: Brooke Lawson, Heidi Lobraco, Natalie Weasler, Alicia Santeramo, and Lisa Reiter

Heidi Lobraco has been with the company just over a year as the Marketing Specialist.  It was the position that drew her to the industry, but learning about plumbing and fire protection has been what has kept her there.

As the Administrative Specialist for two years, Natalie Weaslernever pictured herself working in the construction industry.

“I had always worked in healthcare, but found myself physically, mentally, and emotionally drained,” said Weasler.  “Though I have a passion for working with people and helping people, I needed a change.  I was referred to (Monona Plumbing) by a friend who told me so many great things about trade work.  I love learning new things and broadening my skill set so I was drawn by the opportunity to learn about a totally different career.  The bonus is that I still am working with people and helping.”

“I like dealing with the public,” shared Service Coordinator Alicia Santeramo.  “Our customers are the best.  Plus, my employer does a great job at recognizing our hard work and making us feel appreciated.”

As we have seen throughout Women in Construction Week, the women of Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection have found it challenging to be taken seriously because of their gender.

“People seem to think you couldn’t possibly know what you are talking about,” explained Santeramo.  “I can tell a customer one thing, and they won’t believe me.  They still want to talk to a male who can tell them the exact same thing I did, and suddenly they get it.”

Kraemer shared, “I find that being in a male-dominated industry has come with some unique challenges, and that rising above them requires hard work and determination…and food.”

Weasler echoed Santeramo and Kraemer sentiments, “Sometimes our customers don’t have faith that I can help them correctly because I am a women.  Some, I think, feel that because I am a woman, I have no knowledge in plumbing.  One time, I was talking to a male customer about an issue they were having with their water heater.  I gave the customer some suggestions as to what might be causing the problem and gave advice.  Right after, the customer asked to speak to a man about the same issue.  I have also had a lot of male callers say, ‘oh I wasn’t expecting a women to answer.’”

These challenges do not keep the women of Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection down.  They love their jobs and truly enjoy coming to work every day.

“It’s a great industry to be in with opportunities in both the office and field,” said Reiter.  “If you are passionate about your work and willing to work hard, people will treat you with respect and will value you and your work.”

Kraemer explains, “My advice would be that if you decide you want to be in this industry, don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t or can’t.  It is a rewarding career choice, with obstacles along the way, but those obstacles make it all the more satisfying in the end.”

Santeramo also shares Kraemer’s thoughts, “It’s a great line of work.  Don’t be afraid because it’s a male dominated industry.  There is room for everyone.  I love my job, and am very glad I took a chance even though I had no background in this specific area of construction.”

To close our Women in Construction week, we share some great advice from Lobraco.

“Live Your Life | Love Your Work,” said Lobraco.  “A core value that we hold strong to here at Monona Plumbing and Fire Protection.  If you love what you do, don’t let anything or anyone stop you!”