We were first introduced to Tiffany Orff via Instagram when she was a welding instructor out of Oceanside, CA. Here we are nearly a year later and she is now creater of the Welding Women Syndicate, a page dedicated to women in the industry regardless of the paths they’ve taken.
“It started as a page, then a logo and a website and now a full on movement of not only women but men who support women in the welding industry,” Tiffany says.
In the midst of of creating a place to “celebrate, discuss and provide resources for women in the welding industry,” Tiffany took the time to tell us more about herself, her welding history and where she sees the opportunities in the trades.
How long have you been welding and what got you interested in it?
I’ve been welding for almost 10 years now. The bug for me was watching my mentor make it look so effortless when I stopped by his welding/ fabrication shop. For the first time in my life I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.
How did you train? And what welding processes do you use the most or feel more familiar with?
Lots of different forms of training and experience have placed me where I am today.
I have an AAS in Welding Technology. I’m certified in SMAW, GMAW & FCAW.
An Airgas contract had me building structural components 12-16 hrs a day.
I also taught private lessons and machine tutorials. And was the co-owner of a welding & custom suspension shop for many years.
Plus, I’m a welding Instructor on a college level.
As far as processes, I’m comfortable with SMAW, GMAW, FCAW and GTAW.
What is your job now?
I’m a welding instructor out of Oceanside, Ca. I teach welding 101, TIG 101 and a Welding & Fabrication class.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Working on touring other college’s and hoping to collaborate with them to help encourage and increase their female attendance has been a challenge when they all keep getting shut down or reduced to zoom type meetings.
Where do you see the Job opportunities in this industry? What’s the best path for success for both women and men, especially given the projected shortage of skilled welders?
I recently interviewed a woman who specialized in mechanized welding and the broad range of paths that could evolve from it. Certainly opened my eyes to a very exclusive, niche type of welding.
Do you think it is a good career path for a young woman starting out today? What advice would you give a young woman entering the workforce?
It’s absolutely a good career path. An amazing one actually.
I started out at an older age, but I was also raised differently. I had experience and wisdom behind me that I think younger women lack when entering at a younger age. Most women aren’t taught about tools, shop protocol, field work… where men are, so they are groomed differently. We as women, are not necessarily as well prepared as men are.
My advice to a young woman entering the field would be to start at the bottom and work your way up. Get a job doing maintenance on the welding machines, tacking, finishing, etc.. Then move up as opportunity, your skill set and confidence increases. It’s important to know every aspect of the welding industry in order to fully embrace the craft.
Also, leave your ego at the door and pay your dues like anyone else.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
Don’t feel compelled to follow the conventional path. If you enjoy getting dirty and playing flag football with the boys, do it. Or maybe you are interested in how motors work, find someone to show you.
Yes, this was me. I loved it and was never afraid of being different.
A lot of people rely on social media to find like-minded tradespeople, or they attend welding courses to interact with them. Where do you find support to make it through the industry?
Instagram! That is my family, friends and network of support.
What do you say when you hear the following?
You don’t need to be smart to be a welder
I guess they never heard of the Space-Ex program?
Welding is dirty work
Most of it is and I absolutely love it.
There are not a lot of opportunities to advance
Depends on how much you advocate for yourself and your skill set.
Welding is not work for women
And skinny jeans and buns are not for men, but here we are.
Have you experienced discrimination as a woman welder? If yes, how have you handled it?
This is an interesting question. I’ve felt it on the most intimate level, possible. I’ve had friends, family and loved ones who didn’t support what I was doing. Thankfully, I have come to love and excel at all things welding, so someone’s opinion or lack of interest in my career, drive or abilities doesn’t change that. I’m not here to impress anyone. I’m here to continue to improve upon my skill set so I can pay it forward by teaching & advocating.