Marlon, aged 20 from Dallas, Texas, graduated from the seven-month Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in late February 2018.
Thanks for your time, Marlon. Did you go to welding school right out of high school?
I took a year off before I went to Tulsa. When I graduated high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was working as an electrician. I’ve got my apprentice license.
Why did you decide to go to welding school?
I was working an industrial job, and the place had a lot of welders. They talked to me, and I have a couple of friends who told me that welding paid well. I wasn’t sure about it, but then my dad told me about Tulsa Welding School and he said that’s where I should go.
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Your dad? Why did he suggest TWS?
My dad was taking some welding classes in Dallas, so he was really the one who convinced me I should do it. He said welders got paid well and it would be good for my life, and I’d learn a lot of stuff. So I called Tulsa Welding School. They sent me all the information, and it went from there.
Had you ever done any welding prior to going to welding school?
Nope, I’d never welded in my life.
How did you feel not knowing anything when you started?
It was really, really hard at the beginning, but I don’t give up easily on something. I try and try and try until I get better, but it was tough at the beginning.
Were the instructors helpful during that tough start?
They were pretty good. They actually helped me a lot and showed me a lot of tricks.
What was your favorite part of the welding program?
Being free to practice all the time. It’s a place where you make yourself comfortable to go in and practice if you need to. If you need more practice, the school will actually help you. They’ll find an instructor to help you. Seriously, that was very helpful for me.
You were in the night class. Were you working during the day?
Yeah, for the first few months I worked at Lexus Tulsa for a little bit, then Jack in the Box, then Sonic. But in the middle of the program, around December, I talked to my dad and told him I needed more practice time. So my parents helped me out with money for rent and such so I could spend more time in school practicing. Once they did that I’d show up at school around 9am and spend all day there, all the way through to my night class which finished after 11pm.
Where are you working now?
I’m still based in Oklahoma. Right after I graduated I started working for EagleBurgmann. I travel all over the place for them. They pay for my flights, hotels and rental cars and give me a $60 per diem for food.
In about three months with them, I’ve worked all over. My first job was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From there I went to Louisiana, then to Arkansas, then Mississippi, then to Georgia and on to Texas. So far, each job has been a week and a half, maybe two weeks. The faster we finish a job, the more jobs we get.
What kind of welding are you doing?
At the moment, it’s industrial welding at a plant. I’m doing flux core, but if they need me to do Stick, I’ll do it. It depends on what we need to fix and where we’re working.
How did you get the job with EagleBurgmann?
I was testing for another job that I was applying for, but out of nowhere, Career Services told me that they had this company coming in to do interviews the next day. I told them to put my name in and I’d show up. It was about a week before I finished school. I was doing my last test to be able to graduate. The next couple of days I did my drug test and background checks, then I think on a Wednesday he called me and asked if I’m ready for work. I said, “Yes, sir,” and he told me he needed me in Tulsa tomorrow!
20 years old, unmarried, no kids. Do you enjoy the traveling lifestyle?
Oh, yeah. Right now, yes, I do.
Where do you hope your career will take you?
I want to keep working, keep getting better. At some point, I’d like to have my own shop, or have my own business and go on the road again with my own rig. That’s where the real good money’s at!
What do you enjoy most about your trade?
Working with my hands and being able to fix a lot of things that you never imagined you could fix. People ask me, “How are you going to fix that?” “Just weld it!” I say. I like to fix stuff, and I like working. I couldn’t stand to be stuck in one place doing nothing. I couldn’t do that.
How excited were you to get your first welding pay check?
It was pretty good! At the beginning, like always, you have to start from the bottom, but later on, I’ll get pretty good money.
Did you make some good connections at school?
Oh, yeah, probably with all of my class. We talk to each other about jobs and stuff. Some of them have asked me if I’m still with EagleBurgmann. I say give me time and I’ll help you get in here.
What advice would you give to new students at TWS?
Never give up. It’s going to be tough, but don’t give up. You’re going to be so irritated at times, you’re going to go crazy. But step out, take a breath and go in and redo it. I always asked my instructors to grade my welds as if I were out in the field, not as a student, because I wanted to know if I’m doing it right by those standards. That worked out pretty well for me.
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email Social@StrataTech.com to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program, and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).