Full name: Melanie Goudreau
Job Title: Apprentice plumber
Marital status: Married
When and where did you graduate from?
I am currently in my first year of school for plumbing at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
How and why did you choose this career?
I believed I would be good at it and figured it would be very practical in everyday life.
Is there a difference in the way men and women work and/or are regarded in this industry?
I think there is, yes. Women are not built the same way physically as men and therefore some may not be able to do particular tasks the exact same way. Sometimes, we have to find alternate or different ways of doing the same task, which will eventually bring the same outcome.
In the trades, I believe women have to prove themselves a lot more than men. Every new person we encounter is a new individual that we must show that we can do the job. You really have to hold your own and try not to let anything faze you. For the most part, I've been treated with respect, but I also really work to gain this respect by always working as hard as I can.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I’m in school for eight weeks at the moment to become a second year apprentice, but a typical day on site really varies as it depends on what is needed to be done and by when. Since I’m in my first year, my days are typically spent installing and attaching water supply lines, domestic water risers and mains. I’ve done some pour watches (when they pour concrete) and drilled holes. I've also spent some time doing heating and finishings.
How does your career influence or affect your personal relationships (romantic or otherwise)?
I don’t believe it affects my personal relationships much. My priorities are my wife and my family and so I ensure I spend as much time with them as possible.
Do you think there’s an ideal time to start a family for someone in your profession?
Not really. Your career is important, definitely, but if you choose to have a family, then that’s your priority at that time. Life can’t stop because of your career, so if it takes you longer to complete your apprenticeship and get your ticket, then so be it. If you really want to get that ticket, you will. You can still work, build your career and have a family. I know a few women who have taken a few extra years to complete their apprenticeship before having children. Many of them are back at work and seem to be happily juggling it all.
What is the greatest source of stress in your life?
I think sometimes I’m the greatest source of stress in my life. I put a lot of pressure on myself by constantly trying to prove myself and not feeling that I am the best that I can be, that sometimes it wears me out and adds a lot of unnecessary stress to my life.
How important is money to you, and why?
Money is important in a way where I want a good quality of life. I want to be able to support my family, be self-sufficient and save for the future. Of course, having a bit of extra money to play and travel once in a while is nice too.
Have you had to deal with sexism in your career? Can you share some challenges and tell us how you dealt with it?
I’m the only woman on a crew of men who often say sexist comments and jokes without even realizing it. I try not to let it bother me, I work hard, I do my job. I believe it’s important to pick your battles.
There will always be challenges as a woman working in the trade. I can’t physically do everything a 200-pound man might be able to do – I’m not built the same way. I have to deal with comments that I don’t think a man would ever receive, but I just ignore them and move on.
What valuable mistakes have you made in your career?
I think the biggest mistake so far is waiting this long to make the decision to become a plumber. My other biggest mistake when I first started was letting people’s opinions and what they say get to me. It’s empowering to let things slide off your back and not let them bother you. It took me a while to gain that skill.
Your advice to women today who want to work in this industry?
The more women we have in the trades, the better. It’s fulfilling and interesting. You have to be able to hold your own, let things slide, but when necessary, stand up for yourself.