Grad Q&A with Electrical Technology graduate Cynthia Joslin
Many women, especially those with children to support, are looking at non-traditional careers to earn a better living; careers predominantly held by men. Most of those male-dominate jobs are in ‘the trades’: electrical, plumbing, roofing, welding, painting, framing, paving (building construction). Cynthia Joslin wanted in on that action.
What was your first career experience?
I did cosmetology school when I was twenty-two (now 32-years old) and did hair and make-up; but there was always a lot of drama – and I don’t like drama. That environment wasn’t for me. I was married at the time and decided to be a stay-at-home-mom for my two daughters, Miley and Emily. The marriage didn’t last and doing hair wasn’t going to make enough money to support us.
What gave you the idea to make such a big career switch?
My divorce had a big impact on my career decision-making. I had to ask myself, ‘What can I do to make an amount of money that I can support my children and myself?”
You struggled for some time before discovering options in ‘the trades’; a move you had never before considered. How did that happen?
I was watching Austin (boyfriend) wire up a motor for his drill press. It was so interesting, I said out loud, “I kind of think I want to do this for a living.” And, Austin said, “You should!” A friend who was graduating from the Dental Assisting program at SJVC told me there was an Electrical Technology program there (Bakersfield campus). I contacted SJVC online and they gave me a call the next morning.
What was the career exploration process like?
During that call, we went over what I was interested in. From that moment on my advisor sent me emails and paperwork and we went over every document. It was a really fast process, and I was so ready to do it. I knew if I didn’t do it now, I would talk myself out of it.
Did you feel supported in making a commitment to a predominantly male career?
My dad, Michael, was like, ‘Yes, that would be amazing for you!” I knew my grandparents would be worried that I would be around men all day. But I didn’t want anybody to get in my ear. And, once I am committed, there’s no backing out. Even my ex-husband was super supportive.
Were you accepted in your all-male Electrical Technology classes?
I’m not a wallflower and I didn’t give the guys a chance to NOT talk to me! Going to school with all men was a different experience. We all started the program together and went from class to class with the same people. I liked that comfort, and we were a team, not against each other.
There was no drama, talking about other people – women love to gossip. There was no petty jealousy or competition. It was so much more pleasant to go to school when you don’t have all that.
I became a mom at nineteen, so I kind of took over and became the ‘mom’ of the class. I was, ‘Hey, did you get that assignment done? No? Ok, let’s do that right now.’
What was the best thing about the Electrical Technology program?
I learned a lot. And it was so important to be able to go to every single teacher I had with any question. They would explain it to me in a way I would understand and never made me feel stupid.
There was a full circle of support at school and at home, too. Austin is a welder and really smart in the trades. He and his son, Wyatt, lived a couple of hours away at the time so our relationship was on the phone a lot. He would ask me what I’d learned about and was super excited that I was so excited.
What was your first job as an electrician?
I worked part-time for Mr. Gaines (SJVC ET instructor) who had his own business. Mr. Gaines knew I had the knowledge; and I’m big on questions and got to learn off that. He has supported me through my journey as an electrician. He reminds me to go for my dreams and to dream big!
Where do you work now and what do you do?
I’m an Electrician Apprentice for Harrison Electric and we do a lot of remodeling. Once a framer goes in and frames, I know I’m going to be running wire. I do new runs of wire to switch boxes, outlets, dishwasher, light switches; I’ve even done wiring for bidets and floors (to heat). I run everything that uses electricity to the designated spot.
Every job is different, and the learning is never-ending. I absolutely love it and when I go home, I feel like I earn my money and it feels really rewarding.
What is it like to be female in a male-dominated industry?
All trades (electrical, plumbing, roofing, welding, painting, framing) are on the same job, and I’ve been the only female so far. Everybody I talk to is amazed that I’m out there doing the same job that they’re doing.
And, I’m pretty feminine; still have my earrings in, paint my nails and want to feel pretty.
Was the effort you and your family made worth the outcome?
It took a lot of personal motivation. Part of the Electrical Technology program was online, so I got to be home. And Fridays we didn’t have school and had weekends off so our families could be together; and that helped the long-distance relationship.
What are your future plans?
Austin just got his contractors license, and it would be awesome to go into business and have our own mom-and-pop fabrication and electrical business. The commitment you make to family you also bring to work. We want to be business owners…and a great employer.
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