Susan has been a lead electrician at Devil’s Tower Forest Products for four and a half years. She oversees the electrical systems for the entire mill. “There’s always more to learn,” she tells me as we dive into our conversation. Susan loves organization, technical efficiency, and detail.
For Susan, electricity is a constant source of curiosity and draws on her natural ability to problem solve. “With electricity you use all your senses, you can hear a problem and you can smell it. You learn to detect a problem just by walking by it. And don’t forget touch – touch is important.”
Her eyes light up as she goes on to describe how electricity drives the interconnection of systems and is the building block of productivity. As a mill electrician, Susan has a detailed understanding of the electrical processes that produce the mill products – from log, to lumber, to pellets, to livestock bedding – resource utilization at its best. Nothing is wasted.
What do you want?
As we begin to discuss opportunities for young women in non-traditional jobs Susan’s philosophy of self- determination shines through, “Be whatever you want to be. Don’t let social norms hold back. My first job was as a box girl in a grocery store. I bought my first house when I was twenty-five years old. I wanted to be an electrician, so while I waited for a spot in the apprentice program I became a welding fabricator.”
Not a lot of grass grows under this gal’s feet.
As to women working non-traditional jobs, Susan is all in, “Don’t depend on someone else to provide for you. Don’t let social norms hold you back. Follow your passion, get a good education, and go for it.”
It is up to you…
This is a thoughtful woman who is all about hard work and a job well done. Her solution to the old boy’s club lies in the advancement of good character and a thick skin. “How I am accepted is the direct result of how I treat others.”
In reflecting on the strength one can derive from being their own person – she says, “I didn’t go to charm school, and I can out-lift most men – I hold my own. It doesn’t have to be about gender – it is up to you.”
Her parting advice is simple and wise, “If you know who you are and what you are about – you can do anything.”
Author’s Note: I am looking for more women to interview who work in trade and non-traditional roles. If you or someone you know would like to talk with me you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – Attention: Women’s Work.
All photos – copyright Julia Petersen, 2019