The 5th annual Women in Tech & Trades Luncheon was held Friday, Feb. 13 at Lane Community College in conjunction with the Hands-On Career Exploration Day offered by High School Connections. A seven person panel of women professionals in technical fields shared their experiences and answered questions from the audience.
Each panel member said they have faced challenges while making their way to their dream jobs. Some struggled with the required math. Others had difficulty with the way people looked at them because they were in a male dominated industry. Each shared that they knew very little about their careers until they got into them. They said they kept learning and didn’t give up.
Panelist Julia O’Reilly is the owner of O’Reilly Design Studio and works on projects from business cards to web design to motion graphics.
Jamie Bridgham is a biology researcher at the University of Oregon. She said that her research and pay is funded through grants.
Ellie Cooper is with Edge Construction, and has been with the company since 1979. Her roles involve sales and purchasing.
Jeanne Staton has been an owner of Staton Companies for 40 plus years and has been the sole owner since 1997. She talked about starting her company. “You don’t know what you don’t know when you start,” she said. She lays claim to literally wrecking half of Eugene during the urban renewal when she started in 1971. Demolition is her company’s main business.
Karen Jones is the owner of Double Eagle Design and Construction. She quit teaching at age 33 and decided to follow a career in construction instead. “Don’t be intimidated by what you have never experienced,” she said.
Jones described a Habitat for Humanity project 15 years ago. She was part of an all-woman crew that built a 1,000 square foot house for a single mother and her three children. Jones said women of all ages and backgrounds volunteered and most had little or no construction experience. She said the women succeeded because they were given the opportunity and nobody was telling them they couldn’t do it.
Mary Beth Jones is a journeyman plumber with Peterson Plumbing. She reminded the women not to be afraid of the unknown and to be willing to learn. She says she gets to be a hero every day she goes to work. She calls and texts her daughter, who sees her as a rescuer, about asbestos being found at her school and about pipes that leak. She said that being in a job that pays the bills and provides security and lets her be a hero is a great job.
Naomi Boe is a Lane student with dual enrollment at the University of Oregon. She is passionate about her career choice as a construction engineer manager. Boe fought her way through from Math 10 and up until she completed two different calculus classes that she needs for her degree. “Don’t stop just because it’s hard,” she advised the audience members. She was a teenage mother, got her GED at age 22 and started college in 2011. Her daughter is her role model she said. Her daughter is now working on her second degree.
Audience member Miranda Borgo, who does work study at Lane, said she found the panel helpful, supportive, and interesting. Borgo felt that the panel emphasized a need to maintain an attitude of curiosity and to not be afraid of learning new things.
Lisa Bohannan, Career and Technical Education advisor, hosted the luncheon, which was open to all women interested in pursuing careers in technology.