Danelle Dibari-Starustka was 37 years old working as a Team Leader at a utility company when she took her first FCAW welding class for fun. That was about nine years ago. “I instantly fell in love as soon as I struck my first arc!” she says. “It really felt natural to me.”
She enjoyed the class so much she started taking other classes to continue learning about different processes. As my skill level increased, I started buying my own tools and equipment to take on small-scale side jobs like gates, planter boxes, and carts. “I absolutely loved building things that would pretty much last a lifetime,” Danelle says.
After a few more classes under her belt, Danelle was asked to teach welding classes at the College of Southern Nevada. She says it was a blast, she enjoyed every moment, and like the best teachers she says she learned just as much from the students as they learned from me.
After almost two years of teaching welding classes I retired from the utility company and college and moved to Hawaii for almost a year. She married a military man and has now moved twice since then and landed in Northern California. She’s now added plasma cutting to her skill set and makes creative works of steel and wood, including furniture, sculptures and decorative gates.
As a female working in a male-dominated skill area, Danelle says you have to work hard and go above and beyond to earn respect and prove that you can haul your own steel and do your own work without burdening your partners and co-workers. One of the upsides to being a female welder is the “shock” factor.
“So you’re really a welder?” someone will ask and Danelle will say she’s faking it. “Please ignore the burn holes in my jeans,” she’ll add, having a little fun with her doubters.
Although Danelle wishes she started this profession at a younger age, with her typical positive attitude she says, “Better late than never right?”
Danelle is grateful for the opportunity to acquire welding skills and she enjoys the industry. “As technology changes, the welding world continues to evolve and present new challenges; it never gets boring.”
As a grandma (to five grandkids!) Danelle is proud that she is living proof that you can do whatever you set your mind to no matter what obstacles get in your way. The advice she would give to hopeful female welders: “Have thick skin because you are gonna run into doubters. And keep you body strong so you never have to ask anyone to help lift your steel.”
Her other advice is more physically practical: to use a netti pot to clear your sinuses. “I started doing this a couple years ago and have never had a sinus infection from grinding dust or even allergens. It works great,” she says.
As many of our New Rosies have mentioned, Danelle also has found that female welders can be superior because they have more patience, no ego, and they can finesse a weld beautifully! Her favorite process is TIG because you can weld dissimilar metals and make the welds look really pretty and clean. “If you can master TIG—not easy to do—you can pretty much master any process.”
Find out more about Danelle and check out some of her work at welderchic.com.