Graduate Connections – Meet Marianela Reyes

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Marianela, 27, was born in Tampa, FL, raised in Pennsylvania, and has called Broken Arrow, OK, home for the past 10 years. After a variety of bad decisions and dead-end jobs, a friend introduced Marianela to the potential of a welding career in June 2015. The following week she enrolled. Just seven months later in December 2015, she graduated from the Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School.

Thanks for sharing your story. Marianela. Tell us more about your journey to welding?

I’m a married mom of two. My daughter is 10 and my son is 5. Two people spoke with me around the same time about making a change in my life. The first, my son’s aunt, told me that my mother isn’t going to be around forever, so I needed to think about doing something with my life career wise.

The second person, Tiffany – a friend I met through church – is a welder who went through Tulsa Welding School about eight years ago. She said, “Let me show you something.” She pulled out her phone to show me the amount of money she makes! I had to ask her, “What do you do? Because I want to do that!” She’s a very petite woman with four kids. I knew that if she could do it, I could do it! She told me all about Tulsa Welding School, and that’s how I signed up.

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How long did it take you to decide to enroll?

Tiffany brought me to the school. She introduced me to an Enrollment Representative, Margo, who remembered Tiffany from her time at Tulsa. We took a tour, and it was probably the next week that I signed up for the program. I have to thank Margo. She believed in me from the moment she met me.

So what had you been doing since high school?

I had a lot of different things I wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with my life. I’d made a whole lot of bad decisions that came to dead-end jobs that weren’t taking me anywhere. I got to the point where I was staying at home taking care of my two kids. But then I got very involved in my church which is where I met Tiffany, and how I’ve been able turn my life around.

What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?

Can there be two things? First, I discovered that I could do something I never thought I could do – weld – and I didn’t know how good I’d be at it until I started there. The second thing were the teachers. They were probably my favorite part. They are very insightful and tell you everything you need to know. They got me really well prepared for a welding job in the real world. The guys in my class were very unique, hard-working individuals, and I was so surprised I was able to beat all of them to Top One.

Sounds like there was a little competition with the guys in your class?

You have no idea! I was the only girl in the morning, afternoon, and night class. I beat them all, and boy did I hear about it. From the time we discovered I was going to be Top One…to the time I left!

Explain Top One for people who don’t know.

After every phase in the program, there’s a Top One prize for the best in class. At the end of the program whoever has the most Top Ones gets a welding machine! I am still shocked it was me!

Was it friendly competition?

Well it was friendly at times, but there were times when I really felt the heat because those guys really wanted that welding machine! They definitely did. No guy likes to be beaten by a girl!

So did you make some friends at Tulsa, and keep some connections for job hunting?

There was one guy, Thomas, I was pretty close to. He was married and we both had kids, so we clicked pretty easily. For about a month or two after graduation on Facebook, everybody was telling each other about welding jobs, but that kind of fell away when everybody got their own thing going. Of course, nobody wanted to hear that there were companies that wanted to hire me! They were pretty tired of it.

Did you leave Tulsa feeling you were on your way to becoming a specialist in your field?

Oh yes I did, absolutely. The only reason I did is because of the teachers. They give you so much encouragement. They give you the hope that this is a career in demand, that welders are needed. We could go through school without the fear of, “Oh my goodness, am I going to get a job somewhere?”

So where are you working?

I’ve been with Hanlock-Causeway for about a year now. It was my first job out of school. I was hired through a temp agency. I’m not entirely sure how they found me. They just found my details on an engineering website. They didn’t have my resume or where I went to school – just my email address and phone number. I went through the temp agency first and then got hired on full time.

I actually also just had an interview for another welding job that I’d work on weekends. They do way bigger welding projects than I’ve done before. I just took a weld test; so I’m waiting to hear back on that.

So what kind of things do you weld at Hanlock?

We work on refractory items that go into cement. We do a lot of little anchors, studs and bolts. We work on different projects like that. Some big, some small.

So explain to those who don’t know what a refractory item is?

It’s a piece of metal that goes inside of concrete to help hold the concrete together for streets, building, tunnels – things like that. They’re very small items but very important!

What is it you enjoy most about welding?

The way that the metal comes out of the gun is really cool! It comes out hot and liquid at first, and when it forms, I’m like, “Whoa, how does it do that?” I’m able to help make a building, make a car. I’m able to do things that a lot of people are not able to do, and that’s pretty cool.

Has becoming a welder made a difference to your life financially?

Yes, it has. I get paid every week and, it’s the most I’ve ever been paid…unless I get this weekend job too! It has helped me pay my bills and have extra money in my pocket. I’m really carefree about any financial problems, which is great for my kids too. We go out a lot more now. I’m able to buy things without having to ask someone for money or borrowing money from anywhere. I’m able to pay my own bills, and I’m able to look for my own apartment knowing I’ll be able to pay for it. If I get this new job too, that will help me with things like vacations.

So do you any welding outside of work?

Not really, no. I do make some little fun things out of the scrap at work sometimes, but I’m keeping that welding rig I won at Tulsa Welding School kind of as a trophy. I haven’t fired it up yet!

Where would you like your career to be in three years?

I want to continue mastering my skill at Hanlock. But, I do want to get this weekend job too because it was the job I wanted when I left school. I’ve applied there before, but I didn’t have the experience at the time. Now that I have the experience, I hope they hire me. I’d like to stay with that company and become a pipefitter. Hanlock is a very friendly, family owned, company, and they treat their staff very well so I’m hoping I can make both jobs work.

If you could any job, what would your dream job be?

I’d like to become a Master welder, pipefitter or weld inspector in time.

What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?

Ask the teachers a lot of questions because that’s what they’re there for. I would also tell them not to quit if a job opportunity comes up before they finish school because that can happen. Don’t quit school even for a job. Go through the entire program and get your money’s worth. And don’t give up because you think it’s too hard; it’s really not. If you have to re-phase to understand it, then do that. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself in this field because it is worth it in the end. Aim for Top One!

What do you do for fun?

I have a freelance affiliate marketing business that I’m doing at home. I enjoy doing that. I also enjoy going to the movies. I like to go out to eat. I go to church. I volunteer, and I like to take my kids out as much as possible so we can build memories.

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

I think about this all the time because I’m going to get there one day. First, I would tithe, as I always give 10% of my check to my church. Then, I’m going to invest. I’m going to buy some kind of food chain, like a Little Caesars or Subway franchise, just to make my money work for me. Then, I’m going to set up two separate accounts for my children that they can’t touch until they’re in college, and the rest I’d put in a savings account. That’s what I’m going to do with my million dollars!


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). 

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