January 11, 2021
Spotlight: Residential HVAC and Supply’s Elena Holder is on a journey to know herself
Elena Holder leads a team of 11 inside sales specialists and
administrators in the Southeast region of Trane Technologies’
Residential HVAC and Supply business. Before she started with our
company in 2010—first as a product management intern and then a member
of our Accelerated Development
Program—the HVAC industry wasn’t even on her radar.
“I hadn’t yet considered working for a manufacturing company, much
less a career in the HVAC industry,” Elena said. “I was double
majoring in marketing and advertising and had my sights set on what I
thought would be a glamorous career in consumer and brand
Instead, Elena chased the roles that scared her. Like the time she
convinced the plant manager in our Residential HVAC facility in Tyler,
Texas, to let her supervise an entire production line. She was a
recent college graduate and had never worked in operations before—nor
had she ever supervised a team of 76 people on the manufacturing
floor. So, why’d she do it?
“I chase experiences that scare me because I know they will help me
grow the most,” Elena said. “Supervising a production line was
extremely intimidating, but I learned so much from that role—it was an
incredible experience. I don’t think I was very good at it, but that
role prepared me to lead people. It really toughened me up.”
Uprooting for career growth
Toward the end of her Accelerated Development Program experience, Elena
decided that, in order to enhance her HVAC career, she needed
experience in sales. But that meant uprooting her life—again—and
moving nearly 500 miles away for an account management role in
Nashville, Tennessee. It would have been so much easier and more
comfortable to stay where she was, working in marketing in our
Davidson, North Carolina, headquarters.
“I had put down roots in nearby Charlotte—I belonged to a CrossFit gym
and I had friends—I loved it there,” she said. “I’d only driven
through Nashville once, so I really didn’t know what it would be like
to live there. It was another scary situation for me, but I remembered
other times in my career when things felt scary and they really paid
off. So I went for it.”
Rising up the sales ranks
Elena enjoyed solving problems for her HVAC dealer customers in our
Nashville, Tennessee, sales office. Her initial plan was to get some
sales experience and then go back to her career in marketing, but she
quickly realized that was no longer her path.
“I really liked sales,” Elena said, “and I wanted to stay. Working
in sales was intimidating at first—customers tried to test me and
throw me off with technical jargon. But I gained their respect by
being transparent and unafraid to admit what I had yet to learn. It
was fun to analyze my territory and uncover new opportunities to
achieve or surpass my sales targets.”
So she forged a different path, adeptly uncovering opportunities
with homebuilders in the Nashville area – “I felt like a detective,
putting puzzle pieces together,” – and rising up the ranks to become a
sales leader, and ultimately, customer support leader.
With each new role came uncertainties, unfamiliar challenges and
scary moments. And growth.
“I’ve enjoyed each new role, but it was hard at first to lead the
people I’d once worked alongside as an account manager,” Elena said.
“They were all older than me, most were men—and I was just 28 when I
became their leader. I worked hard to earn my team’s trust and break
down barriers so we could be successful together.”
How’d she do it? ‘Do What Scares You’
Elena says her success is rooted in her desire to grow and
willingness to learn from the people who report to her. She says her
career has been a journey of getting to know herself.
“I know myself a lot better now than I did 10 years ago,” she said. “When you’re very intentional about development and honest with yourself about where you shine and where you don’t, that’s where the growth happens. You can’t be afraid to fail—failure is inevitable. So don’t turn away from those scary moments—instead, try turning toward them.”
Get to Know Elena Holder, in her own words:
Grew up in: Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.
Tell us about your family: I am the oldest of five siblings,
some step- and some half-siblings. My full sister Lauren is six years
younger than me and often gets mistaken as either my twin or my older
sister, which I enjoy, although she is definitely the cooler, younger
sister. In 2015 I met my husband Lakota when we joined the same
CrossFit gym in East Nashville on the same day. We got married in 2018
and live in Nashville.
Hobbies: Traveling, working out, baking and cooking
Best advice you’ve ever received: “Chase experiences, not
titles.” – Mike Lamach, Trane Technologies Chairman and CEO, and
“Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” – My father (and
lots of other fathers!)
Who is your inspiration? My grandmother Louise was a teacher,
and she pioneered and brought women’s sports to her high school and
other neighboring schools in Northern New York decades ago. I have
always admired her for using her voice and leadership skills to make
young women’s lives better. I hope to continue her legacy in a
different but similarly impactful way.
What do you enjoy most about being part of Trane Technologies?
I am super energized by Trane Technologies’ purpose: Boldly challenge
what’s possible for a sustainable world. And it feels really good to
be part of a company that has great leadership and invests in our
development. I am part of Trane Technologies’ MBA program, and I’m so
grateful that the company believes in me enough to invest in me. We
have a lot of people who are really invested in seeing other people
succeed, and in a very selfless and authentic way. I haven’t worked
for our competitors, but my gut tells me we have the best of the best
What’s your advice for approaching new opportunities, even when
they’re scary? Oftentimes, I think women disqualify themselves
from opportunities because they’re afraid they’re not good enough. A
lot of successful women I’ve worked with are really hard on
themselves. Part of overcoming that fear is being honest with yourself
and doing a lot of reflecting, and seeking counsel from people you
trust. If you know who you are and know the value you bring to the
team, you can more easily go after the opportunities you want.
What do women have to offer to the HVAC industry? I think the
most important thing women offer is a different way of looking at
things. Often an uncomfortable tension exists when there’s only one
woman in the room—I’ve been that woman so many times in my career. But
that tension is actually really good, because it helps people
I’ve been blown away when some of my male counterparts have reached out to let me know I’ve helped them grow in some way. That tension and friction creates personal growth—I feel very fortunate that I can make an impact. I’m grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had with this company.
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