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In our July Women In PHCP spotlight, we invite you to meet Louise Prader, senior director of product management at Bradford White Corp.!
PHCPPros: What is your role in the PHCP industry?
Prader: In my role as senior director of product management, I am responsible for defining and developing Bradford White Corp.’s product strategy for all of our brands, which includes Bradford White Water Heaters, Laars Heating Systems, and Niles Steel Tank.
Bradford White’s team of product managers and product specialists defines the company’s new product developments based on customer and market feedback. We then work with many other departments across the organization to develop and launch the new products and features for our customers. My team also develops and maintains product application tools designed to support our wholesaler, contractor, and specifying engineer customers.
PHCPPros: How and why did you decide to enter a career in the PHCP industry?
Prader: The opportunity to join Bradford White in a strategic, high-impact role was one I couldn’t refuse. Looking back, my transition from a large, public company to a customer-focused, employee-owned company was the best kind of culture shock I’ve ever experienced!
As an “outsider” entering the industry in my mid-30s, it was striking how many people had several decades of experience in the PHCP industry and the importance of the personal and business relationships built over that time. After five years at Bradford White, I can understand why there aren’t too many people who leave this industry once they experience the camaraderie. The fact that it took me so long to find this industry is probably my biggest regret. I’m here to stay!
PHCPPros: What have been some of your career highlights?
Prader: An early career highlight was joining GE Energy’s Leadership Development Program after I received my MBA from the Wharton Business School at UPenn. That program was focused on developing the company’s next generation of commercial leaders, and I gained broad experience across multiple roles. Now, I’m leveraging that decade of product management and product marketing experience from outside the industry to improve the processes that Bradford White uses to develop and launch new products and product improvements.
Since joining Bradford White, the opportunity to build and develop the Product Management team to better support the company and our customers has been my No. 1 highlight. It’s gratifying as a manager to watch members of our Product Department grow into leaders in the company and the industry.
Other proud moments at Bradford White include the following: One, leading our Corporate Technology Group, which studies long-term market trends and technologies to guide our future product and technology investments, and two, being a key member of the team responsible for the purchase of the Keltech line of tankless electric water heaters.
PHCPPros: What are your thoughts on mentorship for women?
Prader: Having female role models as mentors has been very important and impactful throughout my career. The best piece of advice I received from one of my mentors early in my career was the importance of authentic leadership. We often have a narrow view of what leadership should look like, but each of us has unique values, skills, and style to bring to our role. Being genuine, listening intently, and leading by example is what builds trust with our teams and peers.
As a female leader at our company, I actively work to support other women through informal conversations, organizing group lunches, and by shining a spotlight on their accomplishments.
I’ve also had the opportunity to build a group of amazing industry connections though participation in ASA’s Women in Industry Division. Several of the friendships I forged through that group and its annual ELEVATE conference helped sustain me during the last two years. Even though in-person events were less frequent, I still had a community to lean on for advice and support. I hope those ladies feel the same way about me.
PHCPPros: What do you think the PHCP industry can do to better recruit and retain women?
Prader: We have a tremendous group of women at Bradford White and in our industry, and we need to grow our ranks.
In terms of recruitment, we need to continue to showcase how dynamic, impactful, and rewarding our industry is to talented women...I’m still shocked at how much passion I have about water heaters daily! Two years ago, I established a partnership with a local university’s Co-Op program to build a recruiting pipeline of future product application specialists (male and female). We’ve hired three fantastic Co-Ops to date and hope they’ll consider full-time roles at Bradford White or in the industry when they graduate. In terms of retention, it’s about highlighting the opportunities that are available to talented individuals supporting their growth and career ambitions.
In March 2022, Bradford White launched a new giving program, Industry Forward (IF), to further demonstrate our commitment to the growth and well-being of the Plumbing and HVAC industry, as well as to advance public awareness of the importance of our industry. Industry Forward will help push out the message that these great employment opportunities exist by strategically funding organizations that support industry value awareness, workforce development and training, and industry career programs. We’d love to support other organizations with initiatives to recruit and develop women in the industry.
PHCPPros: Is there anything from your personal life you would like to highlight?
Prader: I thank my lucky stars that I have an amazing husband, John, who supports me in reaching my professional and personal goals. We are proud parents to two amazing kids, Shannon (7) and Luke (5). They keep us laughing (hysterically!) and grounded in the things that really matter.
Do you know someone you would like to nominate for our Women In PHCP newsletter series? Email PHCPPros Digital Strategy Manager Nicole Meyer at email@example.com!