Every year, the United States recognizes March as “National Women’s History Month”. We observe women in history whose contributions led to the growth of modern day America. Traditionally, the construction and skilled trade workforce has been predominantly occupied by men, with women representing about 9.1 %*.
This year, Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning is celebrating National Women’s History Month by highlighting skilled tradeswomen throughout the month who help to make a difference every day in their professions.
Meet Alexis – Drain Technician / Apprentice Plumber
This week, we chatted with Alexis, an apprentice plumber in Austin, TX, who also specializes in sewer and drain repair. This is how Alexis got her start in the workforce.
Radiant: What got you interested in plumbing to begin with? And how did you go about getting your foot in the door?
Alexis: “Well, my dad is a plumber, but my first job, I was a cashier. I went to work everyday and did the same thing. It was so boring. So one-day, I just told my dad that I was so tired of doing the same things and saying the same line everyday and getting paid minimum wage. My dad suggested a summer job working alongside him at his job.”
Radiant: How was it starting to work with your dad?
Alexis: “I hated it” [laughs]. I worked for the summer and left as soon as school started.”
A couple of years later, Alexis found herself about to graduate highschool with no direction or idea on what she wanted to go to college for. She inevitably decided that she would come back to work with her Dad and give it a shot.
Radiant: So when you decided to go back into a plumbing apprenticeship, what was the response that some of your family and peers gave you? Did you get any feedback?
Alexis: “I kinda became my grandpa’s favorite granddaughter” [laughs jokingly]. My mom was stoked about it. My friends kind of joked about it for a while, but they eventually got used to the idea. Any other person I met, they usually didn’t believe it. When I would tell them that I work at a plumbing company, they always assume I worked at dispatch or that I do something in finance. I think I got a lot of…got a lot of ‘wow!’ responses when they realized I was actually an apprentice plumber.”
[Alexis installing a garbage disposal for a customer]
Radiant: When you started working in the trades, where there any significantly different challenges you came across?
Alexis: “One of the challenges I came across when jumping into the plumbing field is that I was unsure of my physical ability. I thought I’d never be strong enough to move or install a 40 gallon water heater. That thinking kind of held me back. I was also afraid that customers wouldn’t take me seriously when I showed up at the door, but I like to prove myself and others wrong about the limits on what I can do. It keeps me driven.”
Radiant: So how were you able to shake it off and overcome these challenges?
Alexis: “Well, with the physical aspect, I later found out that with the right leverage, anyone can move or install a large water heater. Overtime, I got more practice and experience in plumbing. In training, I learned that you can’t arrive at the call already feeling like you’re beneath the customer. Talk to them like they are a friend. You’re there to help them and it feels more comfortable for both of you.”
Radiant: So tell me, what would you say to all of the other women who are interested in becoming a plumber or jumping into a trade?
Alexis: “Many girls have a lot of setbacks, they feel like plumbing is just for the guys or they’re too afraid to get their nails dirty, but a trade is a really good route. It’s just important to remember, anything a man can do a woman can do.”
Alexis is currently an apprentice plumber and has about 3 months left in her apprenticeship. She plans to continue her passion for the trade by completing her remaining state requirements and officially becoming a licensed plumber.
Visit any of our other “Women in the Trades” articles to read more about the skilled women that work in these various disciplines..