Margo, born and raised in Ireland, came to the U.S. 33 years ago. She moved to Tulsa from San Francisco 27 years ago and has been with our welding school for 13 years. Margo is the assistant director of admissions at Tulsa Welding School, part of a team of six in admissions at our Tulsa campus.
Thanks for sharing your story, Margo. Tell us a little about your past career.
I’d always been in sales. I actually had my own clothing boutique at one stage, and I used to work at Macy’s. I also worked for Avis in a call center environment. I found the admissions representative job online. I hated what I was doing at the time, so I thought, why not check it out? I came in at the lowest level possible, but I made it to senior admissions rep within a year.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the students. I absolutely love my interaction with them. That’s my favorite thing. That’s why I never want to be the director of admissions. There’s too much paperwork involved, and they just don’t have the time to get down to the grassroots with the students like I can.
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What do you do as assistant director of admissions?
I reach out to those who have inquired about the school, typically by phone or email. I’m quite persistent because I truly believe that if they requested information at one stage, even if it was just a flash for a second, they seriously thought about coming to welding school. Once I get hold of them, I go into a lot of detail about our program. I try to build a good rapport. I think being Irish probably helps with that because I come across as warm and fuzzy on the phone, which I think I am!
Do you tell them welding school may not be for everyone?
I don’t pull any punches. I tell them it’s difficult because we’re putting into seven and a half months what a lot of other schools will do in two years. It’s important to tell them upfront that this is not easy. If you’re looking for easy, you need to go somewhere else. This is not it.
How important is a support network for students?
Very. They need as much family support as is humanly possible because it can’t be just us. Mom needs to be on board. Dad needs to be on board. They need to save some money, too. This campus has a lot more distance students than our other campuses in Houston and Jacksonville. They need to have family members on board that would be willing and able to send them some bus fare if they need it.
That’s why I always try to speak with parents during the enrollment process. It’s important to make sure they feel comfortable with their child attending Tulsa Welding School. Whether the child is 18 or 35, parents worry if they are making the right decision. I try to put them at ease. I tell them I’m here ten hours a day, five days a week, and I keep in touch with students. I don’t just enroll them and forget about them. My door is always open to each and every student. We can talk and we can figure things out.
So students always have access to you?
That’s very important. We are the student’s first contact point, and that’s a lasting relationship. They will typically come back to us if they are having issues with something, and if we can’t help directly, we will take them to Students Services. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I broke up with my boyfriend/girlfriend, I’m going to quit,” to which my response is, “Is he/she worth losing your career over?”
Do you stay in touch with graduates, too?
I actually call out the names at our graduation ceremonies. I feel so honored and blessed to be able to do that because I know them so well. I try to make it fun so parents aren’t just waiting for their child’s name. I try to make it so they enjoy the whole thing from start to finish!
The relationships often last beyond graduation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got pictures of kids, of new cars, of new houses—everything—along with a thank-you note saying, “I can’t thank you enough. I couldn’t have done this without you.” I’m just a tiny part of their success. The student really does it all. But sometimes they just need a little encouragement and kindness.
What are some typical questions students ask of you?
The cost is always the first thing. The second is whether financial aid is available, and the third is if they will get help after they graduate. All three are so easy to answer. At any given time, we have up to 700 students attending welding school here. If it wasn’t affordable, we wouldn’t have that many. Secondly, financial aid is always available for those who qualify. Last but not least, our job placement rate is 84%, so I feel very secure talking about that.
What are some of the reasons people give you for wanting to come to welding school?
People are saying, “I can’t stand my job,” or “I’m not being appreciated enough,” or “I’m tired of making minimum wage,” or “I’m tired of customer service, tired of people.” That sort of thing. The last one I can answer in a heartbeat: You’re under a hood. You don’t have to talk to anybody unless you want to!
What advice do you have for new students considering Tulsa Welding School?
Honestly, it would be one of the very best decisions you could possibly make. As long as you show up every day, work hard and treat it like a job, it will pay off in bountiful amounts. You just need to keep your eye on the prize and remember it’s not easy, but welding is an absolutely wonderful trade to be in.
What’s your favorite success story from your time at the campus?
I had a student who had just gotten out of jail. He was an older man. I interviewed him and asked him what he did for a living. He sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door, which has to be one of the worst jobs out there. He said, “I’m a black man. I go out at night knocking on doors and people are afraid to answer.” I said we’ve got to do something about that. He was one of my best students with the best attitude you’ve ever seen in your life. He paid his bills on time and worked for Kirby until the day he graduated. He got a great job after. I’m sure he doesn’t even vacuum his own home now!
What can a student do to help you help them?
You need to be open with us. I know you’re all macho men who are like, “I can do it,” but then you go home and shiver! So be truthful. Tell us your fears. Let us discuss what we can do about those fears. Are they real, not real, made up? Whatever the case may be, we will deal with them together.