After a bit of research, Danielle decided that the dental profession would be a good place to start so she went to the local college to research. She talked to instructors and students but on her way to the Administration office—application in hand—she saw sparks flying from behind a fence. She took a peek then walked into what she discovered was the welding department. There was equipment and metal everywhere and she wanted to know more.
Danielle had been intrigued by fire since she was a young girl, from bonfires with friends to burning garbage and yard waste. She loved to watch the sparks, “Every little flame was different in its own flaming way,” she says.
She found an instructor who told her about the prerequisites for the program (none) and all the opportunities for welders (many). The prospect of getting paid to play with fire and build awesome structure or fabulous pieces of art sent Danielle straight to the Administration office to hand back the Dental Program application and request the Welding Program paperwork: she wanted to play with fire, not clean teeth! She signed up that day and started two weeks later.
Danielle’s enthusiasm made her a perfect candidate to give tours of the Welding Department to local school children and travel to the high schools to let students know about grants and scholarships for college as well as the jobs and potential money to earn as a welder/fabricator. “I enjoyed it even more because as a woman I was hoping to give the ladies a little encouragement—to say that if I could do it so can you; it’s not only a man’s profession!”
She enjoyed participating in the “Expanding Your Horizons” program for young girls. The event offered girls an opportunity to weld. “We would cut up small pieces of 22G copper, big enough for a their name or a maybe a heart or a smiley face, let them put on the hood, jacket and gloves, and let them experience for themselves…what it is like to weld.” Danielle even brought her then 13-year-old daughter in to teach her to weld and discovered she was a natural. After a 20-minute tutorial on safety and a quick lesson, she was welding (brazing copper to be exact) like she’d been doing it for years.
In 2008 Danielle graduated with the highest honors and certifications but ran into two huge roadblocks in her search for employment: the economy had taken a dive, and she was a woman. Employers would give her the once over, tell her that her certifications looked great, and never call. She was puzzled at first, and frustrated, then realized DUH! It’s because I’m a woman! She didn’t let that stop her, and instead says the letdowns—that continued for the a year—gave her more drive and put “Fire under her feet.” She continued to focus, stay positive, and feed her ambition: “TO BE A WOMAN WELDER!”
As many of our New Rosies have advised—Danielle opted for more education and signed up for the college’s Automotive Program. She continued to work as a Lab Technician in the Welding Department and took a break from filling out applications. “Please do not mistake this as me giving up,” she says, “I simply figured that if I had more ‘man skills’ it would help me get closer to my dream.”
The Automotive Program included electrical and diagnostics—and when she finished she had a lot more to go into her resume. Within two months of her next round of filling out applications she landed a job at a local Fabrication Shop as the 2nd Lead Foreman. Of the shop owner, Danielle says, “He wasn’t one bit concerned that I was a woman, he was just amazed at all my qualifications and certifications.”
The main process in the shop is Flux Core though on occasion they use other welding processes if the job calls for it. The shop deals with a lot of “I” beams as well as structural tubing, but there’s something different almost every couple of months from structural building to something as small as air shutters. “I absolutely love my profession as well as the career path I am on,” Danielle says. “I get a kick out of building and fabricating whatever may come across my hands, starting from scratch and seeing it through to the end. I to go to work, do what I love to do, have fun and get paid to do it!!”
The advice Danielle would give herself at 15 and other young women:
Danielle’s message is something we all need to hear, not just at 15, but every day of our lives!