Jesse, 38, originally from Modesto, California, has lived in eastern Oklahoma since 2000. Jesse is a Welding Instructor at Tulsa Welding School and has been with the school for almost seven years. The first five years he taught at the Houston campus. Jesse is a Tulsa Welding School graduate; he graduated back in 2010.
Thanks for your time, Jesse. When did you start welding?
I started welding around 2008. Before that, my dad had taught me how to solder copper piping together for water lines on water purification equipment for residential and commercial use. Although soldering is not considered welding, there are some similarities. I didn’t graduate high school; I got my GED.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I wanted to be a Marine biologist! I had a fascination for sharks. I played sports as a kid, all the way through high school. I had dreams of playing professional baseball but, clearly there were other plans for me.
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Talk us through the headlines of your welding career.
I first spent a few years just doing tedious work locally, helping friends with random work. Everything from trailers, to smokers, fence work, stuff like that. My first real welding job was for a company that built electricity poles; then I worked in oil & gas fabrication shops. Some, building structures for oil rigs. We basically prefabbed the structure of the rigs.
I’ve also done other random work. I worked for a company that fabricated crematorium machines. That was the most interesting work I’ve done. We fabricated everything from burners to pull-out drawers that collect the ashes. There was a crematorium on the job site next to the shop. It was a unique experience.
Why did you go into teaching?
I got into teaching simply because I wanted to make an impact on other people’s lives. It’s my way of giving back to the community. I’m very passionate about what I do. I wanted to help people.
And you started at the Houston campus?
Yes, I hired on down at Houston first, I actually spent the first five years of my teaching career in Houston. One of my closest friends happened to be starting at the Texas campus. He invited me down there to apply for a job. It was 2015 and I was in-between jobs. I’d been working for a fab shop that served the oil and gas industry and work had slowed down and I got laid off. It was a new opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I enjoy hearing all the stories of people’s backgrounds: why they came to school, what they’re here for, where they’ve come from. But I love the result you see at the end. Seeing people’s lives change right before your eyes, having an impact on that. You really can’t put a dollar figure on it. You know what I mean?
I keep in touch with quite a few guys and girls that have graduated under me. To see their success is very gratifying. To see them go out and work jobs from the oil fields on the pipeline, to SpaceX. Just basically seeing people’s lives change before my eyes is very gratifying.
Tell us about your family, Jesse. Married? Kids?
I’ve never been married. I don’t have any children of my own, but my little sister—she was also a Tulsa Welding School graduate—passed away from COVID in September last year. She has three boys, 16, 15, and 4, and she was pregnant; when she went into hospital to have my niece, she tested positive for COVID. She delivered on August 11th, and then about a week later she went on a ventilator before she passed away September 27th. Now, I take care of my nine-month-old niece, full-time. In fact, I was the one that picked Myah up from the hospital. She’s been with me since day one. My three nephews are staying with my parents, but I’m pretty much raising them too. So, I’m I pretty much a daddy to four kids now. I still call Myah my niece, but really, she is my daughter.
I’m sorry for your loss, Jesse. If you got an unexpected afternoon off, what would you do?
I’ve gained a love for golf. So, you probably find me on the golf course. It’s relaxing to me.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’d have to say that people don’t know how passionate I am about my job. That passion and the desire to see my students succeed can sometimes be misinterpreted for me being too hard on them. Safety is important to me. I gained a reputation in Houston of being the safety guy because I was always getting on people over the safety rules. It’s not because I’m trying to boss people around, it’s just because I care.
What was your favorite tool when you were out in the field?
Staying on brand as the safety guy, I would probably say safety classes to protect my eyesight. That’s the biggest thing. You only get one pair of eyes, and I don’t want to be blind. If I’m in the shop, outside or indoors, if I’m working around flying debris, I’m wearing safety glasses. When I was 12, I got a fishhook in my eye; it went through my eyelid, through my eyeball. I got very, very lucky that I didn’t lose my eye. I’ve broken bones before, but that pain right there, I will never put myself through that pain again.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
My sister. We had some ups and downs and she felt like she’d let me down in some areas. The last thing she ever said to me was, “I’m sorry for letting you down.” She didn’t let me down. It was other people in her life that let us down. I’d love to let her know that I’m proud of what she accomplished. Then I’d just let her know that her babies are good, because she made me promise her to take care of her babies.
Thanks for sharing, Jesse. It’s emotional. Was it family that brought you to Tulsa from Houston?
Believe it or not, I had this weird, overwhelming need to move back two years ago. I’m a spiritual person. I feel God was calling me back. I think everything happens for a reason, there’s a purpose for everything. I believe the whole reason why I was brought back here is because of where I’m at today with Myah.
What was your favorite part of being in the field?
It’s being able to look at something you’ve worked on, that you’ve built, and see it being put to use; that’s probably the coolest thing. It’s the gratification of the hard work that you put in. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing something you’ve built. Besides the fact that you make good money, being able to say, “Hey, I built that!” is probably the biggest thing.
If you were to tell someone “Thank You” for helping you become you, who would it be and why?
I’d have to give thanks to Casey Conrad because Casey is the one that got me to go to welding school. And then he was the friend that got me into teaching. Then probably my own instructors when I was at school here. Specifically, Dean Shepherd. It was pretty awesome to be able to come back and work with side-by-side with him for a while before he passed away from COVID. I remember having Dean as an instructor and, and he always had good advice when it came to getting out of school and how to be successful.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for students who are just starting out?
Welding school is an investment in yourself. Don’t take it for granted. You are only going to get out what you put into it. If you come here with the mindset to give 110% for seven months, if you dedicate those seven months to yourself—not to me or the other instructors, but to yourself—you will be successful. Learn all that you can, and do your best at everything, not just one welding process, but all of them.
If you give 110% to something, after 30 days it just becomes habit. So, if when you leave here and you continue that habit, then success is in the palm of your hand. Our most successful graduates were here on time and didn’t leave early. They were dedicated, they asked questions, and they gave us everything they had for those seven months. When they left, they continued to stay dedicated to the habits they developed here. Now they are seeing the results in their careers.
You can’t be afraid to fail when you come to Tulsa Welding School. You don’t fail until you quit. You’re not always going to get the grade you want. It just means you need to work some more. If you continuously work to get better, you’ll get better. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Ask anybody that’s successful in life. They’ll tell you they earned their success through their failures. It’s in failure, you learn the most.