Greg, 56, from Houston, is a welding and pipefitting instructor on the evening shift at the Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston. Greg joined the TWSTC faculty almost a year ago and has over 37 years of experience in the field.
Thanks for your time, Greg. Tell us a little about your welding career.
I’ve been in pipe shops, vessel shops and structural shops over the years. I’ve built big absorption units for air conditioners on high rise buildings. I’ve built lots of stuff.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew I wanted to be a welder when I was 12 years old. My next-door neighbor back then was welder. He was welding on something one day and I asked if I could watch. He went and got me a hood, so I didn’t look at the light, and right then and there I knew what I wanted to be.
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Did you learn to weld in high school?
Not really. I did a little welding in AG class, but after I got out of high school, I bummed around with a machinist for a little while. A buddy of mine worked in a fab shop, so I went to work for them. It kind of went from there. I saw all those welders sitting on their buckets, waiting for a fit up or whatever, and I thought that’s what I want right there. I went to a technical school to learn TIG in the mid-80s.
Is Tulsa your first teaching job?
No. I taught welding at a community college here in Houston for 10 years. I was a shop supervisor for an inspection company while I was teaching at the college.
What made you go into teaching 11 years ago?
While I was at that inspection company, we tested welders for contractors. I would see the younger generation coming in and being taught wrong. That’s when I decided to start teaching, to try to correct the mistakes I could see being made.
What made you move to Tulsa Welding School?
I had a motorcycle accident, and I couldn’t really get out in the field like I could before. I was out of work. One of our lead instructors here, Natalio Cortez, was one of my students at the college years ago and he suggested I come over. Now he’s my boss!
What do you like best about teaching?
The challenge of students not understanding something at first, and then picking it up. I enjoy helping them learn something that is difficult to learn.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I do a lot of woodwork. I have a wood lathe and all kinds of woodworking tools. I make wooden TIG handles for people, including for some of the students and instructors at school. I build boxes. I build just about anything and everything that comes across my mind.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be.
I don’t know. That’s a good question. The one person that comes to mind first is John Wayne. I’m a big John Wayne fan.
Tell us about your family Greg.
My wife and I have been married for 33 years, and we have two grown boys. My oldest son has two girls, so we have two granddaughters with more to come, I’m sure.
If you weren’t a teacher and could do anything with your time, what would you do?
I would spend my time with my grandchildren and do my woodwork. That’s what I love to do.
You get an unexpected evening off, what would you do?
I’d take my wife out to eat, or if she was busy, I’d go in my garage and do some woodwork!
What was your favorite part of the welding industry when you worked in the field?
I’ve been a fabricator or welder most of my life. I love building stuff from scratch. I love to cut stuff out, clean it up, tac it up, weld it up and look back knowing that I laid everything out and made it from scratch. That’s what kept me going. Looking back and seeing what I’d built with my hands, either by myself or with some help. It didn’t really matter what I was building, just as long as I was burning and turning. I just loved spending time under my hood.
What advice do you have for new students considering TWS?
Make sure this is your passion. To be able to enjoy life itself, you’ve got to love what you do every day. You’ve got to enjoy your job. Follow your heart. Some people won’t be welders and some people will. You’ve got to have the passion to be a welder/fabricator. To not only enjoy it, but to be able to grasp it. If you don’t take what you do to heart, you’re not going to do it for a long period of time. Without passion it’s just not going to happen. Welding is an art. An artist isn’t going to be an artist if they don’t have the passion for it.
What was your favorite tool of the trade when you worked in the field?
Other than my welding hood, it would be a four-pound sledgehammer that my dad gave me when I first got into this business. I’ve been toting it ever since. That must be 35 years ago.
If you could tell anyone “thank you” for helping you become who you are today who would that be?
It would be a man named Buddy Espinoza. He was an older guy who taught me how to do what I do and how to perfect it. I was his welder helper. He was the guy back in the early 80s who helped me pursue my career in this industry and helped me be what I wanted to be. I thank him every day for the knowledge he taught me and for the knowledge I’ve picked up through the years.