Hannah, 20, from San Antonio, Texas, completed the Welding Specialist program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in April 2018.
Thanks for sharing your story, Hannah. Did you come to Tulsa Welding School right out of high school?
Yes, I did. I only had one summer month to do what I wanted before the real world kicked in! I never thought I’d go to welding school; it wasn’t my first option. My first option was the medical field because my family is a bunch of nurses.
Nursing? So what made you choose welding?
I took a sculpture class in my junior year at another school. I didn’t know what classes to take for my senior year when I moved back to my own school. A couple of buddies told me I should try welding because it would be fun. I thought it would be a grown-up version of the art class I did the year before.
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When did you go from thinking it would just be fun, to thinking it could be a career?
It was after we had to make a trailer for a stock show during the second semester of my senior year. Just the whole process: working as a team, hanging out with everybody, learning what they knew. It all made me think maybe I could do this. A couple of my friends who had graduated high school before me were already going to Tulsa Welding School. I talked to them about their experiences, whether they were enjoying welding, and whether they thought it would work for me. They encouraged me because they had seen me weld at high school, so I thought why not?
What did the family of nurses think?
They were supportive, especially my dad. They said I should go on and do it! It was something new, something different. Of course, my mom didn’t want me to leave. I had to be constantly on her about signing my papers and student loans.
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
Honestly, it’s hard to say one thing. Everything was awesome. The instructors cared. They wanted you to do well. Meeting the other students was awesome. None of them were like, “Oh, she’s a girl.” They all wanted to be my friend, especially after they saw me weld. I was happy that we spent the majority of the week in the shop and not in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, you learned a lot in the classroom—you spent a whole day there—but then you got four days in the shop learning the skills hands-on.
Was there one thing that made you think this was the career for you?
I think the support I got from everybody, and me actually believing in myself. It was a case of me wanting to prove to myself, rather than anybody else, that I’m capable of more than I think I am.
You graduated in April 2018. Did you get right to work?
Just a few months out of school, hurricane Harvey hit and everything flooded where we live. My mother-in-law has a painting business and she needed help painting houses. I wanted to help people after the hurricane, and this was my way. Because I was doing this, I knew I’d be okay finding a welding job when the time came. So I spent almost a whole year doing that.
So you only recently started your welding career?
I just started a week ago. When the painting started to slow, she encouraged me to go and do what I wanted to do. She’s friends with someone whose husband works at Dragon Products. He said they were hiring. I knew then that I couldn’t waste any more time. I picked up an application and had to get back to school to brush-up my skills before the weld test. I had to do a MIG test and a TIG test. I didn’t do too well on the TIG test, but they had a guy show me how to do it, and I’m a quick learner. When it was my turn to test again, I was a whole lot better and got the job in Beaumont, Texas.
Is it a good company to work for?
Some guys have been there 10 years or more, so I think so. What I like about it is that it’s kind of like going to school again. They tell me to relax, not to be afraid. They actually care about helping me, making sure I know what to do. Today was a rough da,y but my supervisor told me it’s okay, just relax, you’re being taught by my best guys, so if you do something wrong, they’ll fix it.
Are you happy with the money you’re earning?
You could say I’m very humbled by it. My main goal right now is paying off my student loans and then saving up for a place of my own.
Have you faced any sexism as a female welder?
I haven’t come across any issues. If it happens, you’ve just got to have a thick skin and roll with it, but I’ve not had any problems at all. When and if that day comes, I’m not going to care much. It’s not their life, it’s mine. Other than my family’s, no one else’s opinion matters to me.
What’s your welding career goal?
Just to stick with it and keep proving myself wrong. I’ve had some self-doubt in the past, but every single day I try to believe in myself a little more. I’d love to stay here with Dragon for as long as possible, but if something happens one day, I’m not afraid to follow my dream somewhere else.
I also want to be able to give back throughout my welding career. In high school, I applied for a local scholarship called Dollars for Scholars. They asked me why I deserved the scholarship. In my essay, I wrote that should I win, when I’m able, I would donate $1,000 back to help out a future scholarship applicant. Well, I won, and it’s really in my heart to accomplish that, to be able to help others follow their dreams.
What do you enjoy most about being a welder?
The camaraderie of being part of a tight-knit crew, knowing that I’m creating something, and being able to drop my hood and do my thing.
Have you stayed in touch with connections you made at school?
Yeah, I most definitely have. The time I spent at school with them was really good. I’m glad that there’s this brotherhood in this industry.
What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?
Don’t be afraid. Believe in yourself and just do it! Put 100% of yourself into it. If you put any less, there’s no way that you’ll be able to keep up with it. You’ve got to be all in.
One year on from graduation, any regrets?
I don’t think I have any regrets. I just take everything as a lesson learned. I believe everything happens for a reason, and the whole time I was painting houses, I never once thought that I’d never get a welding job. I had the drive and belief that this is what I am meant to do.
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).