Grad Connection – Meet Samantha Lira

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Samantha, aged 19, graduated from the Welding Specialist with Pipefitting program at the Tulsa Welding School and Technology Center campus on March 25th 2016.

Thanks for speaking to us Samantha. How did you get in to welding?  

My father welded a little around the house, so he first introduced me to it. He encouraged me to take welding classes in high school. Some of my uncles are welders too, so I guess it’s like a family trade. Once I took those high school classes, I pretty much fell in love with welding. I went straight to Tulsa Welding School. It wasn’t even a month after graduating high school.

Welding is a male dominated field. Did you dad or your uncles prepare you for that?

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They didn’t say too much about that actually. It was being at Tulsa that prepared me for that. As the only girl in a class with 19 guys, that kind of ratio was good preparation for being out in the field. I got used to working with just guys around. We were all really competitive, but I had no problems whatsoever. I was with a really good bunch of guys. I knew I was going into a male dominated environment, but that just made it all the better when I proved that I was just as good as them, if not better.

So you took it as a challenge?

It’s always enjoyable to prove perceptions wrong. I’ve actually won awards for my welding. I won one in high school for architectural design; we built barbecue pits and we took them to competitions and auctions. Then at Tulsa, in the Pipefitting class, I won “Top One” which means I beat everybody else in my class. I was actually given the award at graduation which surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that! I also won Perfect Attendance which means I didn’t miss a day in 9 1/2 months!

What was your favorite part about the program and why?

When I enrolled I was the only girl in a class of about 20, which I was fine with – I expected that. But throughout the nine/ten months I got to meet a bunch of wonderful, interesting people. Everyone was really nice. It was cool to get to know everyone, hear their backgrounds and how they got introduced to welding, their travel stories, things like that. That was my favorite part. If you work with good people, it makes it fun. You get to laugh a little, and that makes those little five hour days go by so quickly.

How did you get on with the practical work?

I really enjoyed all the hands-on work because I’m a visual learner. Yeah, you can tell me something, but it’s better if you show me and then let me figure it out myself. Every day, you’re always learning.  That’s kind of how welding is. You have to figure things out for yourself – what way works for you, what method works for you, things like that. Always practicing, always learning.

Do you feel Tulsa Welding School and Technology Center gave you a good grounding, a solid education?

I feel like I have a great foundation. I do want to continue to learn, as I’d like to progress to be a welding inspector one day. But TWSTC gave me the tools and the breadth of knowledge to grow into my career.

Did you make some lasting connections at the welding school?

With the majority of my class actually. We all got pretty close within the 9 months; it’s like a little family. I love meeting new people so when I went to TWSTC, it opened up so many new opportunities. It was really rewarding, and I’m so glad I met them all. My former classmates and I still check in/keep up with each other to this day.

Samantha Lira welding

Where are you working, and how did you get the job?

I work at Jamieson Fence Supply. I got the job on my own the week after I graduated. I was adamant that I wanted a job quickly. I didn’t want to apply for jobs online and hope/wait for someone to call me back. So I just visited multiple companies all over the city and introduced myself.

I got some “I’m just taking resumes,” some promised call backs, some interviews, but when I went in to Jamieson I spent a long time talking to the assistant manager that day. They called me back in the next day to meet with the regional manager, and we talked for about three hours. It really had a “homey” feeling. We have a small staff; there’s about seven of us in the field and 11 or 12 in the warehouse. I spent up so much time there before getting hired, that I felt I knew everyone on a first name basis. I couldn’t commit to any other company because I felt that Jamieson was home for me. It’s a great place to build my experience. I only have two years of educational experience with welding, with no on the job experience, so this is the perfect place for me to learn.

Is it close to home?

It’s 15 minutes at the most from my house, which is fantastic. I was shocked. I drive down this road all the time. It goes to show you never pay attention to what’s around you until you’re looking for a job!

Are you happy with your paycheck?

I’m okay with it because I understand I have no real-world welding experience. But it’s a decent amount; I was actually pleasantly surprised to be honest with you! I was like “Oh, okay. I can do this!” It can only go up with more experience.

What did you do with your first check?

I set myself a goal in high school. I wanted to be able to buy myself a new truck by the time I’m 21. I’m in love with trucks, and I wanted to buy a brand new work truck…in cash. That’s what I’m working towards.

You only started your career a few weeks ago, but where do you hope to be in three years?

I’ll probably still be at the same company, building my experience. The company is growing pretty rapidly, so as the company gets bigger, I hope to progress. In fact the regional manager and I were talking, and he sees me as a welding supervisor in a couple of years. I can see myself staying here for quite a while. It’s so close to home, the people are great, and I can see future opportunities here.

A lot of welders like the idea of traveling the country for work, what about you?

When I was in high school I wanted to work overseas, or on rigs where I’d be gone for six months maybe, then come back home. I really liked that idea because I love to travel. But now I don’t know; finding Jamieson has really hit home for me. It’s changed my perspective a little because I love it here.

If you could pick anything, what would your dream welding job be?

I’d work for NASA. I love astronomy, and I love welding. They would just go so perfectly! Building the next space shuttle or whatever comes next. That would be cool to say, “I welded on that!”

What’s your favorite aspect of your new trade?

The creativity for sure, the artistry. When you’re done welding, you can look at your weld and feel so good about yourself. You can say, “I did that!” and take pride in what you’ve done.

What advice would you give to students considering attending TWSTC?

Soak up as much information as you can. There’s going to be a lot because you can’t learn an entire trade within seven months [9.5 months with Pipefitting]. But all the information they give you is so useful; you’ll need it one day. Maybe not when you start, or even a couple of months into your first job, but you will eventually. So, soak up everything, learn as much as you can, hope for the best and keep practicing!

What do you do for fun?

I’m a pretty boring person, but I do love to fish – freshwater, salt water – you name it; I will be there. My other hobby is baking, but I don’t like sweets, so my friends are happy…

If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?

I’d help everyone who helped me! Friends, family, instructors that helped me along the way, teachers in high school, my welding instructor in high school.

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