TWA were fortunate to interview Malinda, a powerhouse electrical automation tradeswoman, mother of two, who runs an online support page “Lady Tradies and Rocking Chicks”. She kindly shared her story with us:
Let’s start at the beginning of your trade journey – what got you interested in electrical automation?
I was in the STEM field through school, and through this one of my friends and I had an opportunity to attend an event that centered around opportunities in the power field – I remember Santos featured at this event. It didn’t cross my mind until then to get involved in this sector. I ended up taking up an electrical automation apprenticeship.
I understand an electrical apprenticeship wasn’t your first choice?
No, I actually applied to get into the Navy. When they told me I wouldn’t be placed where I applied for, my network rallied around me and told me I should work in a trade.
I’m so glad you had that support! We’ve come across many instances where a woman’s network is trying to steer her away from a trade in favour of university…
Yes, university was an option – in electrical engineering. But my family is in Navy and in Trades, so it was just natural for them to encourage me that way, and natural for me to move in that direction. I also felt my maths wasn’t a strong suit, and so I would struggle in university.
But that wasn’t the case?
It was really interesting – I ended up doing a course as part of my studies in mathematics, and I just flowed through it. But I’m really glad I ended up doing an apprenticeship.
So tell us what it was like commencing your apprenticeship
I was successful in getting a placement with ASC in Adelaide, but it would be 13 months before I could start, therefore I was placed with SAGE in the interim. I had a great learning experience with them, got to see all sorts of automation processes and a broad picture of how things worked. I do remember stepping into class at the start and getting the “it’s a woman” reaction from the guys. I was the only woman undertaking the automation trade, and I remember there was only two more women in the trades areas – one was in HVAC and the other was plumbing.
What was your experience like with them and working in an all male environment?
Other than that first reaction they didn’t make a fuss over the fact I was a woman, there was no segregation. The work itself was a bit hard at start – I felt like I didn’t know too much and I didn’t have the muscles, but there were a few guys in the same position. So I was in the “fresh out of school” group with a more advanced group. But that didn’t last very long…in each of the pracs we started to become competitive, and I started with nothing and ended up winning all the rounds. The only issue I ended up having was with a male lecturer who was a self confessed sexist! He actually told us all he was! I really enjoyed winning each of the rounds in his classes to also make a point, and the guys in the class also stood up for me too, so it really wasn’t an issue.
That’s fantastic, so good to hear that they had your back. I understand early on you set some long term goals – tell us more about that?
I distinctly remember being interviewed by AIGTS and telling them my 5, 10 and 20 year goals. In my first 5 I wanted to make my way into power generation. I then wanted to become an operator in 10 years. Then I wanted to run a generation plant in 20 years. I achieved it in 10.
That is so impressive, you absolutely crushed it!
Yes, I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished. I remember having a moment after the 10 years going, what are my goals now? I always love to be busy and challenged.
So – let’s move along the journey, you’ve become a qualified electrician (automotive), how did your career progress?
My family and I have moved all over Australia with my power generation career – I’ve worked at three power stations so far, in South Australia, West Australia and ended up in Eildon, Victoria.
I understand you work full time – tell me how you juggle all your responsibilities?
Sure – so I work for AGL and run the power station there. I’m a Mum with two young children (one is 2 years old, the other is 4 months). My hubby provides care, so that’s a great support. I also set up and manage the “Lady Tradies and Rocking Chicks” community group on Facebook and Instagram, which as been designed to support and empower females in traditionally masculine industries. So, yes, I have my hands full.
Do you have any time outside of this to have any hobbies?
I love cooking. It’s really become a pleasure to cook, and I need to cater for a lot of dietary requirements. And gardening, I love gardening.
We thank Malinda for her time, sharing her story and her journey. If you’d like to get in touch with Malinda, visit her Facebook or Insta groups “Lady Tradies and Rocking Chicks” community pages.
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