Tag Archives: Dana

As we go on

I thought I would hop on the graduation theme this month, as I am surrounded by graduates right now because I work at Niagara College. As I am writing this, convocation is taking place right now down the hall (congratulations, graduates!).


I myself remember graduating university and then college, mostly because they both were on my birthday so it was extra special! I also remember being extremely sweaty because graduations never seem to have air conditioning. Add to that wearing a heavy gown and having a thousand people squished into a room, it gets pretty sticky. I also remember being so full of hope for my future when I first graduated university: thinking, “Man! I am so excited to get an awesome job in the real world and make money and move out and show everyone that I have a university degree!” Then I remember shortly after the actual graduation writing up my resume and literally having nothing to put on it besides that I completed a university degree. Now, that was clearly my fault for not getting involved enough, being proactive and doing more, but honestly I had no real world experience to throw in there. Luckily I didn’t worry too much because I had decided to go college for my post-grad, another year of not having to worry about adulating! A year later, when I graduated college, I knew that I still had a long road ahead of me to find a job in my chosen industry. I didn’t have any high expectations of getting my dream job, making a lot of money, or even having weekends off. I knew that I was going to graduate again and still work at my retail job for minimum wage. I knew that in my free time I would search for jobs like a mad woman, constantly update and work on my cover letter and resume, and be extremely poor while living with my parents (no shame, people!).

DON’T WORRY THOUGH, it all worked out. Six months later I did get a job in the field I went to school for and made decent money and eventually moved out. I was a real independent lady, but still extremely poor (thanks student loans!). I totally didn’t expect my life to turn out the way it did. Things change a lot after your graduate. I think most of the people I know went through a similar experience; and we are always willing to tell the younger generation that they are screwed when it comes to life after graduation. So I decided to ask a few friends of mine these questions:
“What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were graduating college/university?”
“What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a new grad”

Here are some answers:
“I wish I knew about all of the services that were offered to me while I was in school and as an alumni, and almost all of them were FREE to me as a student. I really needed help get you career ready – having someone edit my resume, cover letter and help me with interview prep! I wish I knew about the Graduate Alumni Peer mentoring program to get me connected with someone working in my field of study. I would tell new grads to stay in touch with their college/university and connect with your peers. It’s very interesting to see where everyone ends up and how you can leverage your relationships. Network network network – it’s important to always be expanding your professional network. And, always carry business cards on you!”

“Don’t give up! Not everyone gets their dream job right out of school but keep trying. Continue to gain experience however you can whether it be through volunteering or working part-time in the field you want to be in. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom and work your butt off to get to the top but it’ll all be worth it in the end. Good luck!”

“Life doesn’t happen quickly, you can’t immediately get whatever you want just because you graduated. While you are in school you are always trying to pass the course to move on to the next one, or to finish the year so you can graduate, and it’s always go go go. Take your time in the workforce to try to learn as much as you possibly can because education never stops.”

“Man… that a university degree isn’t the golden ticket to getting your dream job. It’s a huge financial and personal commitment, so make sure you look at all your options and the consequences for your choice. Take the time to really look into your program/degree: What you can do with it? What opportunities are there in this field for me after I graduate? What post-graduate programs are available to me for career growth and success?”
“Life is way tougher than I thought! I would have went back to school instead of starting a job right away after my first graduation. Now I’m used to the money and a certain way of life, and it seems impossible for me to go back to being a full-time student. Everything is very competitive, and for every job there are hundreds of applicants; so the more you have that makes you stand out, the better. Another thing I wish I knew was to stand up for myself! In the work place and in life. Don’t get in the habit of thinking it’s a one time thing, because it usually never is. People get used to treating you a certain way, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”
“If you can’t find employment in your field volunteer wherever you can to gain more experience and make connections. You are still figuring out your life, live it, don’t let the pressure of what you think you “should” be at this point in your life stress you out. You are going to stress about plenty in your life don’t add to it, know your goal and keep going but also remember it is ok to change your goal as go.”

“Learn how to make a budget. Visit a financial advisor, and be smart with your money. Once you graduate, pay off as much of your students loans as you can. Paying that off should be your first priority.”

I hope that some of you are graduating or coming close to graduating, and are reading this right now. It’s easy to be naïve, young and get caught up in the moment when you are in post-secondary. The decisions you make during this time have consequences, and I think it’s easy to say that most of the answers I have collected have a common theme: life isn’t easy. Dream jobs don’t fall in your lap. You have to work hard, go above and beyond and keep fighting to have the things you want. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your post-grad life in order, you need to start planning. Take the advice of those who have been through it; do as much as you can to make yourself stand on in this ever so competitive job market. Volunteer, get involved and make a difference. Be smart with your money, and your time. Research and ask questions.

I promise we aren’t all cynical and poor graduates. Best of luck to you all!

IWD Q & A

I am very lucky to have so many strong, amazing and empowering female friends. We have had many discussions about how we don’t really feel affected by gender inequality because we grew up feeling equal to men and we have always been very independent. I have one amazing friend, Kelsey, who ended up becoming a tool and die maker, and is one of the only women not in an administrative role at the company she works for. She’s been featured in newspapers and magazines about her success in the field, and is a role model for other women to start a career in the trades. Our friend group always jokes about her success and badassness (that’s a word), and her ability to do, well, anything. She had graduated 2 different programs with honours and awards by the time most of us had graduated university. When we were talking about International Women’s Day/Month at the last Blogger’s Meeting, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her about her journey in the tool and dye field.
Amazingly, she had been asked to instantly fly down to South Carolina to do some work at another factory. She was working non-stop down there and still found the time to answer these questions for me, so thank you!

D: So what the heck do you do for a living?

K: I am a red seal certified tool and die maker, I work for a company that builds the dies for many different companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes etc. I work as a lead hand delegating jobs, fixing issues with the dies, making sure we meet the customers’ timelines, and provide a die that will make a dimensionally and cosmetically correct car part. My company often builds dies that produce more complicated parts and the ones consumers actually see, such as the body side, tailgate, and doors. Tool and die is a hard trade to describe to people, but there’s my attempt explaining it in one sentence.

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

D: Well you did a pretty good job at explaining it, in my opinion. Did you always want to be a tool and die maker, or what did you want to be when you grew up, as a child?

K: I remember as a child saying I wanted to be a veterinarian, often a popular choice with kids who like cats and dogs but I never obsessed over a certain career.

D: So what did you do after high school?

K: In high school I used the co-op placement to work at a bakery, and that experience helped me decide to go to George Brown College for Baking and Pastries Arts. I remember in grade 11, really having no idea what I wanted to do but knowing university wasn’t right for me, so I picked baking as a career path.

D: [Sidenote: Kelsey then became the friend we would force to make cakes for us when we had a party or holiday coming up.] So what made you want to change careers?

K: I found the culinary trade relies heavily on your passion for the work, and often the desire to open your own business. I enjoyed baking but you work long days, often really early mornings, and you have to work holidays. I never really got a chance to enjoy my time off, or get time off to begin with. I knew I would never open my own bakery and I felt the job would never allow me to be financially independent. All the job postings I was seeing for bakers were often lower paying with no benefits. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

D: Okay, so you decided you wanted to do something different. What made you think of a tool and die worker?

K: I decided I didn’t want a career as a pastry chef, but I also didn’t know what I should do instead. My father works in the trades as an insulator and said he thought I would make a good millwright. That made me start looking into millwrights and possible schooling options. I discovered the Centre for Skilled Trades and Development in Burlington. They offered a Millwright/Tool and Die Pre-Apprenticeship Program affiliated with a company that would hire you depending on how the training goes. The program was also only 6 months, which was great because I wouldn’t have to take a long break from working full time. Based on the schooling, I decided I would become a tool and die maker (not a millwright) and was hired as an apprentice. I continued my training for 3 more years by going to Sheridan College one day a week while continuing to work. It was great because I wasn’t racking up any student debt (my tuition was only $400 a year) and received government grants from companies supporting the skilled trades.

D: What was your very first day on the job like?

K: The first day was extremely over whelming! No amount of classroom training can prepare you for, what looks like, such a chaotic environment. A production plant is fast paced with many moving elements. I could feel that eyes were on me. To make things worse, I didn’t have a proper work uniform yet so I felt really self-conscious walking around in my jeans since they are more form fitting than regular uniform pants.

D: Were you scared at all to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

K: I feel like scared is the wrong term. I think I was just as nervous as anyone would be starting a new job, regardless of gender. I had no idea if and how I would be accepted. I honestly believe the men I worked with were just as nervous and worried that they might say something wrong or inappropriate to me. For the first couple months, I don’t think I had a genuine conversation or joked around with any of my coworkers. The conversation was often super formal or just filler talk about the job. It definitely became easier to bond with my coworkers when I got a new job at a different company that had more employees closer to my age.

It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

D: What are you most proud of during your time in the tool and die industry?

K: My current role as a lead hand has come with a lot of responsibility, stress, and a strong feeling of pride. I am one of very few female tool and die makers and it’s even rarer for one to take on a supervisor type position. It is the most stressful and challenging job I have ever had, and that just proves to me what a smart decision I made with this career path.

D: What are some funny or crazy stories that you can share with us?

K: I have been in a fair share of strange, awkward, and funny situations at work; most times it becomes a good story to tell my friends and sometimes it’s something that really pisses me off. I can share that the men’s washroom is covered with graffiti and inappropriate writing on the walls. When a co-worker told me about that I was so confused because they were all working adults, I just didn’t get it. There was also a time when a mystery person was drawing penises all over the factory, and it got so bad that management had to get involved and start checking security cameras. It was so embarrassingly unprofessional and they never figured out who it was.

I remember at the first place I worked, there was this one line worker that wouldn’t stop asking me out. The first time he asked me, I politely said “no sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But he would still always ask to take me out to dinner! I would walk a different way around the shop to avoid him because it was always such an uncomfortable conversation. Eventually he quit or was fired, so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, if anyone asks me out I just immediately shut it down. I have worked at my current company for so long everyone knows me and that I’m married and it’s not a situation I face anymore.

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

Other than that type of thing, every now and then at the lunch table someone will be looking at their phone and they start laughing and pass the phone around to the other guys at the table. Then they stop and realize I am also at the table and they don’t know if they should pass the phone to me or not. I guess they don’t want to take the chance of potentially offending me. It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

More recently, I found myself working down in the States fixing issues an assembly plant had with the dies we built them. The plant manager would go and talk to one of the guys who was down there working with me and asked him for timelines and the progress of the job. My co-worker paused and proceeded to point at me and say “I don’t know, go ask my boss.” Honestly, I find nothing really phases me any more. I really enjoy my job and the work environment. The job is awesome; not just the work and the financial benefits, but all the entertaining stories I get to tell my friends.

D: Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments, or something you are most proud of.

K: I have had a lot of success in my career, (considering I have only been working in this industry for 6 years) and I am already a lead hand at my company. But, I am the proudest of the fact that I am able to inspire other woman to work in the trades, and breakdown the preconceived beliefs about women working in this industry. Volunteering with Skills Ontario and talking to high school girls about the many career options out there brings me great pride. I have had a couple different women tell me that my career story gave them motivation to pursue a future in the trades.

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

When we were first dating and I told him I was quitting the bakery to go back to school for a tool and die maker, he was confused. Mostly because he had no idea what a tool and die maker was, and secondly because he didn’t want me to stop making delicious cookies. Now that he gets what I do every day, he is really impressed and proud of what I have been able to accomplish. However, sometimes he can get frustrated with the amount of hours I work. There are times when I will work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week and get home and immediately pass out on the couch. We have talked about balancing work and life, and how there will be times when I have to work those long days, or randomly go to the States for three weeks for a job. He knows how important my job is to me, and he’s the person I confide in when I had a bad day, when nothing goes right, and when I’m questioning my abilities. My career has also been beneficial to him: he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in our household, and was able to take a lower paying position with better options for advancement because I could support us.

D: Thank you, Kelsey! You can add this blog post to your wall of newspaper and magazine articles about how amazing you are!

K: [Eye roll and laughs]