Faculty Appreciation Month – Meet Brandon Chesebro

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Brandon, 35, originally from Grapevine, Texas, has been calling Oklahoma home for the past 30 years or more. Brandon is an evening welding instructor at Tulsa Welding School. He has been with the school for a little over six months. Brandon teaches all the different phases, and all the different welding processes. 

Thanks for your time, Brandon; how long have you been welding?

I’ve been welding for 14 years, and my experience is quite broad. Welding is something that I absolutely love to do. At first, I went to college for the Ford Asset Program through OSU, an automotive training program. But I decided I couldn’t do it the way they had it structured, I’m not a bookworm. But I discovered that welding is right up my alley. It’s constructing something from nothing, and I could understand all the symbols and everything. So, after about a year of OSU, I stopped and moved into the welding field and went to welding school, all thanks to a very good friend of mine.

Tell us briefly about your welding career.

My very first job was actually through commercial HVAC. You need water lines to help with heating and cooling. So, I was in charge of welding up the main water lines coming into the units. I did a lot of stick welding with that. After that job came to an end, I got into doing what I really wanted to do, the process I really wanted to get very sharp with, and that’s TIG welding. I built a lot of restaurant equipment with very thin gauge stainless steel. It required a very delicate hand for my heat input so that I didn’t distort the metal. I did that for about a year; it was something I did to heighten my focus and hone my skill for TIG welding. After that, I took off traveling, going in and out of refineries, from one state to another, doing shutdowns and turnarounds. 

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Please explain the difference between shutdowns and turnarounds in refinery work.

Usually when you hear the term shutdown, they’re doing an emergency shutdown because something’s not right in the system. A crew will come in to fix it. I got to be a part of one of those crews for a few years and it was something that I absolutely enjoyed because I wasn’t stuck to just Oklahoma. I’ve been to many, many different states, met some really incredible people on my travels. I’ve also been involved in what we call turnarounds, where they shut down a portion of the refinery for a scheduled period of time, to revamp the components or piping, or whatever. The crew gets them all set and ready to go, so that they can get back online and continue producing the chemicals that we rely on so much these days.

That’s cool. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was younger, my dream was to become a professional baseball player. I played baseball for many years, all the way through high school but I ended up getting hurt. I blew out my shoulder pitching, and that put a hard shut down on that dream. Then I got involved with automotive because I’ve always been very good with my hands – that’s why I tried that Ford program at OSU. 

What made you go into teaching last year?

This goes back to my past. In one company I was asked to help guys learn how to become TIG welders. I was a little anxious because I’d never taught anybody how to weld, I’d just always done my thing and rolled with it. But after teaching a few guys how to weld, I discovered it’s actually a lot of fun. I taught a couple of guys how to weld a few different processes in a matter of two or three months. At that point, I decided that if the opportunity ever arose where I got a chance to teach, it would be something that I would really enjoy doing. Now that I’m doing it for real, I absolutely love it. 

Awesome! What do you like best about teaching?

Seeing the growth within the students, especially when some come in not knowing where to find the ‘on’ switch! The longer I’m teaching, the more I see that I’m challenged every day because I get to see their development. I’m constantly challenged with, “Hey this isn’t working, I don’t understand why!” and I get to dive in and help them understand what’s going on or 

debunk what they’re doing. So, I get challenged like I did in the field, and I just absolutely love it. 

Tell me something most people don’t know about you.

That’s kind of a tough one because I’m pretty open. Everybody knows just about everything about me!

If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be.

Honestly, I would have to say my grandfather Frederick – to able to actually talk to him as more than just a five-year-old.

Tell us a little about your family, Brandon.

My amazing wife Lisa and I have been married for 13 years; she has supported me through all of my shenanigans over the last 13 years. We have a seven-year-old daughter, and a little boy on the way now!

Congratulations! What advice do you have for new students just starting out at TWS? 

I think the biggest piece of advice is don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. No matter how your question sounds to you, ask it. It may not make sense to you, but it will make more sense to someone that has more experience. I tell all my students, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s how we learn!” 

That’s why TWS instructors are there, to help their students!

Correct. If you don’t ask questions, it makes it that much harder for me to help you. I’m in this to help you go out and make a lot of money and develop some really awesome life stories! We just recently had a graduation ceremony. I had quite a few students come up and thank me dearly for taking the time to help them understand, for helping get them out of their own heads so they could see what they were doing more clearly. A ‘thank you’ is a little thing, but it means a lot to instructors, it really does. I’ve got a student who is a new starter; I helped her here and there when another of our instructors was out. I was able to help her turn things around and now she’s really showing what she can do; she’s not locked up in her head anymore. I get a thank you from her almost on a daily basis for taking the time to help her and calm her down, even though she wasn’t my student. 

You get an unexpected day off, what would you do?

I’d get out on my motorcycle for a while, just go cruise for a couple of hours. Then I’d take my wife and daughter out and find somewhere to eat, somewhere we haven’t been in a number of years or somewhere new. Maybe see if I can twist the little one’s arm to get her to try something other than chicken or fruit!

Although that’s a pretty healthy diet! 

Right! If I could stick with it, I’d probably lose about 20 pounds!

What was your favorite part of the industry when you worked in the field?

I mentioned the challenge I enjoy with teaching earlier. My absolute favorite part was getting out and working in the refineries because I didn’t know what kind of challenge I was going to face from one day to the next. That was what really drew me to the field because I love a challenge. I could have gone directly into the field doing that right out of welding school, but I chose a different route; I wanted to hone more of the skills first before I went traveling. 

If you could tell anyone “Thank you” for helping you become who you are today, who would that be?

First would be my parents, Fred and Susan. They helped me afford to go to welding school and they have always been very supportive – my father would ask me how things were going and what I was doing, even though he knew nothing about welding! Second is my wife Lisa, at the time I started this journey she was my fiancée; she has always given me tremendous support. She knew the welding field because her father was a welder, so I’ve had a lot of help from her side of the family getting into this industry. The third person would be my own welding school instructor – Charles Griffin. That man didn’t just give me the knowledge, he delivered it in a way that pushed me to succeed. He taught me not just to be a good welder, but to look at my welds and try to beat them, to make the next one even better than the last one. I actually still talk to him from time to time, he’s retired now. He also helped me get my foot in the door with my very first job.

Thank you, Brandon for your contributions to TWS!