New Job

My general foreman and superintendent amazed me by honoring my request to rotate out of “the big job”. They could have easily laid me off or sent me to a different big job. I am now working for the Service Department of the same electrical shop. My job sites are more varied and at times, I feel like I’m in over my head. I miss my old crew fiercely. Read the rest of this entry »


Safety: Beyond Buzzwords and Lectures

I’ve been at the same big project site for over a year now. Every week, we sit through two safety sessions: one presented by our general contractor to all the tradesworkers and one by our electrical shop. In both cases, the advice given has – at times – swerved from developing a work place safety culture to irrelevant intrusions into my personal time. I feel angry at the presumptive tone because I yearn for more site-relevant discussions such as: celebrations of weeks and months when the entire site has been incident-free and examples when we’ve properly and safely executed a milestone on the project. Or regular debriefings after a close call/near miss so that all of us can be reminded to stay focused and to continually assess our work environment. Also, I have the right to know when our customer has had chemical leaks affect their construction workers.

Instead, we’ve endured inane talking points such as: Read the rest of this entry »


Young Lady

The words we use with each other matter. Yet sarcasm and jokes and silliness are a dominant flavor in the way me and my crew communicate. This morning, while in the prep-shop, a foreman from a different crew came in. His head was down, his brow was puckered and he was leafing through a stack of blueprints on the other side of the room. Rather than interrupting him, I continued cutting my pieces of conduit. Once he found what he was looking for on the prints, he greeted me with, “Aaaaaaand how are we this morning, young lady?” Jokingly, I replied, “I’m neither young nor a lady!” He scowled, and I could safely guess he was unaware of the condescending tone in his voice and the patronizing nature of the words he used. Read the rest of this entry »


I Love These Guys

I’ve been preoccupied with budgeting and gobbling up as much hands-on work as possible the last several months. The most recent journeymen I’ve worked with have spoiled me because:

– They have great personalities and we have an easy rapport. I feel comfortable asking questions and we can joke around. Trust is inherent.

– They’ve helped me understand how our one little project ties in to the overall goal. We’ve been quick to confirm that we’re working from the same perspective.

– They have double-checked my logic and my measurements and turned me loose to fabricate and install our electrical components. We can have discussions about anything that needs to be re-done or things that might have been done better. I’m developing a feel and a fluidity with my tools: yet it’s not always perfect (yet). At least we can laugh about my moments of awkwardness. I’m definitely getting more efficient. Read the rest of this entry »


That’s MAN’S Work!

He said it. He said it this morning and my crew immediately went quiet and looked at me with mouths and eyes wide open. “It’s man’s work that we are doing.” We might as well have ripped a vinyl record out from under its needle. In a split second, I had to decide how (or whether) to respond to my foreman’s comment. Read the rest of this entry »


16 Months Old: Advice I’d Give Myself Last Year (or any New Apprentice)

Last year feels like so long ago. I’m now a third term apprentice. Each term is about six months long and I have seven more terms to complete before I sit for my journeywoman/electrical license exam. Here’s the advice I wish I could have given myself about a year ago:

Relax
The pre-apprenticehip program and the union’s basic skills preparation were wrong. Read the rest of this entry »


In Case of Emergency, Please Contact…

Last month, my partner of 4 1/2 years let me know he was ready for us to break up. He told me while I was still half-asleep and in bed. It was a rare day off, and I’d been expecting a different trajectory to the day: one that might have brought rejuvenation and joy. We lived together for 2 1/2 years, and I was head-over-heels for him. He was ready, he said, to go find a partner with whom he could have children. This is the same man who thought taking care of a foster dog was too stressful; the same man who works a split shift from 10:30am until 11:30pm at a restaurant. Read the rest of this entry »