Learning to step out of the comfort zone into a more fulfilling and creative career
In a recent Instagram post on @thecarmenelectrode, we asked our followers to share a little bit about themselves. After reading more than three dozen comments, we were drawn to @the_arc_room‘s story and needed to know more.
Meet Killian, a former bartender by day, stripper by night kinda girl. After years of working as a server, going to school full time, and stripping on the weekends, she finally decided to try something that would make her happy mentally, physically, and financially. “I am extremely introverted so working in a setting where I have to approach people for an entire shift took a toll on me. I dropped out of college, quit both jobs and picked up welding.”
“I got into it because of my dad. He is a certified welding inspector (CWI) and suggested a trade (specifically welding) since I have always enjoyed working with my hands and building stuff. At the time, I was actively racing cars (drifting), so he pointed out that I could build roll cages and other custom things for the automotive industry. I thought it couldn’t hurt.”
One year after graduating from her welding courses, Killian began working as a helper at a fan shop. “I hated production work so I went my separate way and started my own business.” Even with zero start-up money, the joy of working for herself, doing things her way, and creating the art she loved was just the boost she needed to get her life back on track.
Killian creates handcrafted metal art and sculptures. “I specialize in patriotic metal flags, like the sh** you see in those annoying IG ads, except that my flags are all cut by hand. I don’t use a CNC machine or do production work. It’s what separates my work from everyone else. You’re guaranteed to get a one-of-a-kind piece that hasn’t been mass produced to look like the exact same as the other 10 pieces I’ve made. You’re literally getting something, no one else has. That’s why I choose to do it the way I do. I don’t like being like everyone else.”
Challenges of Being a Businesswoman
One of Killian’s biggest challenges when it comes to owning a business is how to navigate the world of entrepreneurship. It’s not just about doing the work but how to run the business from all angles. “I spend a lot of my time asking myself what the f*** I’m doing, or how am I going to do this, but I keep on going. If I gave up every time I came across a problem I didn’t know how to immediately solve, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.”
Owning a business is tough enough. But nothing’s tougher than being a woman in such a male-dominated industry.
Have you experienced discrimination as a woman welder? How have you handled it?
“Yeah, I have, and I’ve actually experienced it more from other women than I have with men, which is mind-blowing. I’ll just say this, if you’re the type of person who thinks because someone is a certain gender, and they don’t “belong” in the workplace and/or you think she just sucked her way to success – YOU’RE the problem. That goes for both women and men.
Generally, I won’t let it bother me, especially passive aggressive actions/comments under the breath, but if someone is going out of their way to be an as*****, I have no problem speaking up and shutting it down. It’s hard enough being a woman with all of society’s expectations on how we’re supposed to present ourselves. We don’t need it any harder in an industry where women are not usually present in the workforce.”
Do you think it is a good career path for a young woman starting out today? What advice would you give her?
“Any skilled-trade is an excellent career choice to get into. Skilled-trades are undervalued. They are such a huge part of our every day lives. If you can get into just one trade, as long as you’re willing to put in the footwork, expect to make a pretty decent living from it even as a helper or entry-level.
Do your research, seek out mentors, attend workshops and networking events, and try out different things that you’re interested in. If you realize you’re not into it, go on to the next thing and keep doing this until you find what you’re looking for.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to people experienced in your field. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Reach out on social media, there’s loads of us out there who are more than willing to offer advice and guide you in the right direction. Us women in the industry love to see other women breaking the barriers and doing what people don’t expect.
It’s important to have a constant support system to help you through and if you’re fortunate enough to have one, don’t let it go to waste.“
What do you have to say about these common misconceptions of welding?
Welding is not work for women
“In the end of it all, welding is for anyone who wants to put in the dirt, sweat, and tears to learn and get good at it.”
You don’t need to be smart to be a welder
“There is a level of specific intelligence that goes into welding. You have to know metallurgy. You have to know some pretty advanced math depending on what you’re working on. You have to understand how to weld within very strict parameters and not f*** it up when the CWI comes to test it. Some welders literally build rockets.”
Welding is dirty work
“You’re right. Welding can get very dirty depending on what you’re doing. It’s metal. I don’t know what you’re expecting from us.”
There are not a lot of opportunities to advance
“What? I can’t hear you over the sound of money and success! All sarcasm aside, there are many opportunities to advance in welding careers. You just have to be self-motivated to seek it out and not expect it to fall in your lap. There are welders who make 6 figures because of their specified skillsets.”
What’s the best path for success, especially given the projected shortage of skilled welders?
“Best path for success is to not be lazy. If there’s something you really want, you have to work for it whether it’s by literally busting your a** working, or by doing your research on opportunities for whatever welding job you want. Then GOING OUT to speak to employers, attend workshops, classes, networking, whatever. Successful people don’t wait around to wait for stuff to happen, they go out and make it happen.”
If you’re just starting out in the skilled-trades, know that not everything is going to go the way you want it to. You will need to develop a thick skin and not get offended at every little thing because yeah, it is dominated by a bunch of old-school bros and some younger ones. Dudes are gonna be dudes. Don’t take it too personal.
Bottom line, work for what you want, don’t get worked up over the little things, and if you’re overwhelmed or need help, ask. The skilled-trades industry can be daunting, especially if you’ve never even thought of doing it as a career or have zero knowledge in it. Don’t let it discourage you. It’s a cool career with endless opportunities.”