Vallerie, 20, from Houston, TX, graduated from the Welding Specialist program at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston in May 2020.
Thanks for your time, Vallerie. What did you do after high school before welding school?
I never really believed in going to a four-year college because I feel like you’re cheating your time and your money. I had a bunch of friends that were going to college, but I just waited it out, went to work and watched how they got on.
Where were you working?
I was working at Ross Dress for Less. I was a supervisor and making garbage money. After about 18 months, I wanted more for myself. My life has been crazy. I don’t really talk to my family anymore, so I’m on my own. I had to make a change. I couldn’t live a comfortable life working at Ross.
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What made you consider welding as a career?
After I came to the conclusion that the money that I was making at Ross wasn’t fitting the future I had in mind for myself, I went up to the community college. They have a center there where you can look at all the classes on offer. I never wanted to go to that college, I just wanted to look at the different trades.
What trades did you consider?
I picked up a few brochures that interested me, like truck driving and welding. I’d already done cosmetology in high school. I went home, did a bunch of research on the different careers, and welding just caught my eye.
Why did welding catch your eye?
I looked at how much welders can earn, and where you can go in life if you stick with it all the way. I liked everything that I saw. I’m really not an office environment-type of person, I’m more of a welder-type of person, doing something where I can just be myself. I also don’t like dealing with customers. I don’t have the attitude or the patience for it. Welding was just perfect for me.
Had you done any welding in high school?
Not at all. I didn’t know anything about welding. I walked into Tulsa Welding School with a clear mind!
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
Everything was pretty good. Each phase was different. The instructors were very easy to get along with, as long as you’re willing to participate and willing to get better. My favorite part was TIG welding; it’s the cleanest weld that there is. I’m MIG welding right now, which is fine because I just started my career, but eventually I want to work my way up to TIG welding. I’d like to work on airplanes
How did you find the program?
Honestly, as long as you’re dedicated, open to learning, and confident in yourself, everything will go perfectly. For somebody who really wants this career, it will work out. I really didn’t think I was going to be as good a welder as I ended up being. My friend, Zoe, who I met in school, is a way better welder than I am, so kudos to her. But with time, I’ll get better. For the most part, it was a really good fit for me.
Where are you working?
I work at Sabre Industries in Conroe, Texas, with Zoe. I’m welding, but learning pipefitting right now. Last week we had orientation, and we officially started on Sunday this past week.
How are you enjoying your first weeks on the job?
If you’re a young person going into this industry, you have to understand that you’re not going to have the time to live a young person’s life, but it’s going to pay off because you’ll earn the money to live well!
What do you mean by that?
The hours are long, the heat and weather can be extremely harsh, and I don’t really do much else other than work. But when I do have some time off because I have some money, I can do pretty much whatever I want! Having said that, I’m working so much that I don’t have the time to spend too much, so I really have no option but to save!
On the subject of money, are you happy with what you’re earning?
I’ve not gotten my first check yet, but I’ve been asking around about what to expect. 9 times out of 10 we’re going to get overtime.
Are you excited about that?
Yeah! It would have taken me two to three weeks to earn that at Ross. I’m doing so amazing that it makes me want to cry sometimes! I’m so excited to see where this career will take me!
Where do you see your welding career going?
I’m kind of just going with the flow right now. I kind of jumped into welding because I know it’s going to work for me. I’m not sure I want to do MIG welding my whole life, but I could see myself doing TIG for a long while. Honestly, I don’t know what else I could do to be able to make the same money that I will be making. In second grade I wanted to be a dentist, but I don’t think I would be a dentist now!
I want to work my way up into something that’s a little more laid back. In the future, I plan on opening a few businesses and investing in a few people to help them out, and myself, too. I just want to see where everything goes; I have big plans. I’m just getting started!
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
I like the idea of contributing to the world, building things. Like I said, I don’t like customer service or dealing with people. I like that as a welder I can be myself and say what I want within reason!
Did you make some lasting connections at school?
Zoe and I have built a really good friendship, and I have a few friends on social media platforms. I keep in contact with a lot of them, especially the instructors actually, as they know me to be a pretty decent welder. So anytime they have somebody offering a job somewhere, they can hit me up.
Did you work with Career Services to get your job at Sabre?
If you’re persistent in trying to get somewhere in this, you’ll get there. It’s not hard but you have to take the right steps to advance yourself. I was in the Career Services department three months before I graduated making sure Jakis was going to have a job for me! Sure enough, I got a job a month after graduation.
What advice would you give to students for them to be successful at TWS?
If you’re enrolling in welding, don’t expect an easy job. You’re welding, so you’re going to have to put in the work. If you’re not willing to do what it takes to get where you want to go, welding is not for you. You have to have the drive, you have to be consistent, and you have to be dedicated.
You can’t goof off it in school because once you get to a real company, nobody is going to want a bad job done. If I’m making airplanes in the future, nobody is going to want to fly on a poorly-made airplane! Welding is something that really benefits the world. It’s not an easy job, and if you’re walking into it thinking that it’s going to be a piece of cake, you’ve got another thing coming. At the job I’m at, I have older guys telling me that they are still learning new stuff every day.
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program, and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).