1) Please tell us a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day
My current job is a full-time high school teacher where I teach nine through 12th graders how to weld. I am the lead welding instructor in a program of about 35 students currently. I have also just recently started a night school program for adults that I teach two nights a week. In addition to teaching full-time, I also do a lot of subcontract work for local businesses in their welding departments. I am also the Vice Chair for District 10, Section 6 American Welding Society for Northwest Pa.
2) How did you arrive at your current position?
Arriving at my position was not an easy task by any means. My father was a welder for 35 years at GE. He taught me to weld in the garage just messing around on odds and ends parts. My father always encouraged me to do my best and never told me that because I was a girl I couldn’t do it. When I graduated high school I pursued a number of educational routes, but was unable to find a job I truly enjoyed and that didn’t require me to move away from my hometown.
I worked three jobs trying to support myself and pay back the more than $60,000 in college debt that I incurred. My mother was reading in the newspaper that a local Vo-tech school had a night course for welding. She was semi-kind of teasing me and said “if your dad taught you, you have to be pretty good”. So I actually looked into the program and I signed up for the first course. I flew through the course. I was at the top of my classes, and I signed up for a second course. I eventually ended up with an AWS certification and more. I guess I did have my father to thank for my skill after all.
A friend I met through the welding courses referred me to a welding position at a local shop. It was the best experience I ever had. The greatest part was I was making a really good wage that I didn’t have to work three jobs for.
3) What attracted you to a career in manufacturing? (and/or) What do you enjoy most in your manufacturing career?
The ability to support myself, my family, and repay my debts was definitely a deciding factor when choosing this career. If I knew what I know now, I never would’ve had any of the debt that I incurred. I could’ve went straight to industry from high school and saved myself a lot of money and a lot of hard times.
I enjoy as a teacher showing the younger generation an exceptional career path that can be very rewarding for them. As a welder I enjoy creating something from nothing. I take a lot of pride in my work as a welder/assembler/ subcontractor.
4) Have you encountered stereotypes in your manufacturing education or career and how did you overcome them?
Yes, I have encountered men who have judged me as a professional woman/instructor; however, with wit and professionalism I’ve learned to quench even the most difficult men in this field, and gain their respect. For example, sometimes when I walk into an adult class I will have guys look at me and raise their eyebrows. They cannot believe that their welding instructor is a female. I don’t take it personally.
The truth is that every job I’ve had in industry I received a couple of looks, because men just aren’t used to seeing a woman in my position. But, I have never been disrespected or treated poorly because I was female. I proved to them that I could do it; and if I could do it, I’m sure any other woman could do it too!
5) Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?
Absolutely, with no doubt in my mind, I would recommend a career in manufacturing. So much so that if my son chose a career as a welder I don’t think I could be more proud of him. There are so many things that are positives in manufacturing. We are always going to need something built in this country. College isn’t for everybody. And you don’t necessarily need college to go into this industry. You can still make a fantastic living and be debt free and have great benefits and feel proud and feel accomplished. There are so many options and choices that are available I just don’t think people realize. You can even move up the ladder in some positions over time. The possibilities are absolutely endless!