Meet Naomi Buechman
Naomi is a new Facebook Friend (you can never have too many Facebook Friends!), and when we put out a call for women welders, she was one of the first to answer. Here’s what she has to say about welding, working as a woman welder, and life:
For fun I enjoy concerts, drive ins, carnivals, reading, writing, photographing, and driving my truck on road trips… And of course, welding!
I was always interested in welding growing up even though I hated fire, because I used to watch TV shows of shipbuilders and auto-body guys slugging away on cars… I also thought the helmets looked very astronaut-like, which I loved!
I trained at a local college and took their “welding techniques” program, which actually focused around a lot of the ‘other’ stuff involved with welding- fitting, autocad, blueprint reading, technical math, welding theory and metallurgy, to name a few. It was my first year of ever stepping foot into a shop and it was definitely intimidating at first, but I quickly moved past that and went into ‘the zone’.
Currently I am using the SMAW and GTAW processes the most, but am proficient at using all forms, as we were taught all of them in the shop. I thoroughly enjoy TIG welding the most, even though I like laying a fast bead with say, GMAW, but I like that you can control your heat and bead with your foot …providing you use a foot petal 🙂
I have done some production welding, and am currently doing some projects for a military base for a local shop. I have never worked in a fab shop, but spend a lot of time in one alongside some of the greatest people in my life… amongst making some funky art pieces in the shop. I have done a few art pieces, nothing major- but have sold both that I made. It keeps my skills sharp when there’s a lull in the economy, which is a bonus!
I have done welding jobs from local little shops, to working plant shutdowns, 60 feet up crawling through 14 inch spaces to weld in a confined space. Burning rod with four inches of concrete all around- your face completely brown, hair like straw and concrete dust falling out of your pants. (Clarifying shampoo will be your friend ladies!)
Non-welding related I have done everything from slinging drinks, to pouring coffee, photographer to selling pantyhose to truckers. (Don’t ask!)
My biggest career challenge to date has been the economy, because when I graduated is when the recession hit its worst.
Being a woman in some towns is still a challenge too, but I always go prepared with helmet over shoulder to prove that I can weld just as good, or better than any guy on their shop floor. It pays to let employers know that you are not there to pave the road for women’s rights, but you genuinely love what you do, which is what I always let them know.
I have come across several situations where employers have said “oh sorry, we don’t have a woman’s washroom”, or “it’s a dirty job”, and I handled it by saying “there are always ways around that” or “It’s a job that needs to be done!” (After coming out of a chute, eight hours later covered with inches of concrete dust, I think proving tenacity and determination is key)
I would tell any young women that are interested in welding as a career to be strong, don’t undermine yourself and work hard. It’s very easy to get intimidated and discouraged because the reality is, the welding world can and will be tough, but so can a lot of other sectors in life, but you can’t let that get you down. If it’s something you really love at the end of the day, you will know.
If it’s not meant to be, then that’s okay too. Life is about finding your passion, which mine happens to be welding. I love the smell of burning rod, the smell of the leathers, and the accomplishment at the end of the day. It’s as simple as welding patches inside concrete chutes and making it fun, thinking of it as leaving your imprint.
I also want to encourage women to discover welding related careers that stem from welding, such as fitting, iron worker, welding inspector, or even an instructor. There are many opportunities to advance, and I believe that being smart is also an asset (but not necessarily a necessity) with being a welder too. Knowing distortion control, grain structure of metals used in tools and why, or different currents used and why really helped me progress as a good welder. Knowing how to weld is cool, but knowing how to take apart your nozzle and put it back together is where it’s at for me. I believe you should know how and why your machine works, not just that it works.
Right now because of the recession, there are a lot of qualified men/women without work, which does suck, but you just have to keep with it and get out there and pound the pavement when an opportunity arises. I think the best path for success in the industry is listen to those who know, those who have been there. Try it out.
I foresee green projects popping up like crazy, so the demand will be there and always for maintenance of plants and structural jobs from across the country.
If art is your forte, get out to every local craft shop and get your name out there, don’t be afraid!
My ultimate goal as a welder is to end up working for an auto-body shop, customizing rods, or to start mingling with some cool alloys, such as TIG welding titanium or TIG welding parts for the aerospace industry.
As Tomater from Cars would say, eat my rust!
Thanks Naomi! You know we all want to know, however, WHY were you selling pantyhose to truckers?