Tradeswomen Tuesday: Megan Solis, Boilermaker
Tradeswomen Tuesday’s first Boilermaker Rose Lerini is reaching out to her sisters to make sure we meet more Boilermakers. Megan Solis is the first in this special series of the women in the Boilermakers Union.
Megan is 32 with a beautiful 4 year old daughter and a boilermaker husband. She found the boilermakers after a series of non-traditional jobs, including auto mechanic and union electrician.
I am a just graduated Boilermaker Journey Worker with Local 92 in Los Angeles. I work all over the US, mostly on power plants; both coal burners and nuclear plants. Right now I’m working at an oil refinery.
What attracted you to the trade?
I joined the Boilermakers in 2007. I was in the IBEW at the time, but found it was a poor fit for me. I was watching a group of boilermakers tipping a vessel at an oil refinery and thought “that looks like fun.” Shortly after, one of those boilermakers was working with me to weld supports for the electricians. He encouraged me to join. He told me that I could do the work if I wanted. He said “don’t let them scare you off.” That boilermaker is now my husband.
What was it like when you first started?
It was a little frightening. I was giving up 3 years of an electrical apprenticeship and starting again from scratch. I definitely questioned my choice a time or two. But I loved the work I was doing and I seemed to be more appreciated and accepted than I was as an electrician.
What do you enjoy most about your trade?
Oh that’s hard to narrow down to one. I love to travel and I love the physicality. I love the problem solving. And the industrial setting.
What are the challenges?
I think the biggest challenge that we all face being in the trades, is the initial period of adjustment that you face at each and every new job. Each time, everyone seems to need to feel you out, and figure out what they think of you and how to treat you. Because you know, female!
What are the best and worst parts of your career?
The best is probably the feeling of contentment and accomplishment at the end of the day. The worst is dealing with the occasional people who don’t think you can do your job, and don’t want to let you try.
What skills or traits do you think have made you successful as a boilermaker?
My mechanical aptitude, a willingness to work hard, and a sense of humor are all crucial to my success. More generally, I’ll say that my father always told me “90% of life is to suit up and show up” and I’ve come to see how accurate this can be.
Looking back, would you do anything different?
Oh many, many small things. But overall no I wouldn’t give up what I have done and learned for anything.
What do you think would have helped the most when you were just starting out?
A weld shop at my house (just kidding,) more self-confidence. The less you care what others think of you the better,for both your work and your peace of mind.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself to help your career?
Go where you want and make sure you come up to your own standards. You’re the one you ultimately have to answer to.
Has working in the trades affected your “work-life” balance and time with your daughter?
Child care in America is poor at best, regardless of vocation. But I tend to think that as far as time spent with my child, it all evens out. I may not be home every night but I often get to spend weeks at home uninterrupted. And I’m lucky to have a partner who does the same work. So we trade off jobs so one of us is always there for her.
What is your vision for the future for women in the trades?
That at some point a woman working in any trade is a non-issue. Just like you never hear anyone say “wow, did you see that! We got a female accountant” we will just become another construction worker.
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