The year is 2020 and when it comes to talking about women in non-traditional roles, I wish I could say that this is a regular occurrence, but it still really isn’t. We are still nowhere near where we need to be on the % of women that make their living doing jobs that typically are done by men.
Yes luckily we do see women tackling more and more male dominated careers. Doing things like being a professional painter, electricians and many others. This is absolutely fantastic.
It seems like their are still some careers, that just seem to be harder for women to get into then others. I think that women lineman is still something that doesn’t seem to happen that often. I am not sure if it is the physical aspect of the job, or the technical side of the job.
But whatever the reason is, many women never pursue this line of work.
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My childhood was in small town SK in the 70s. My dads career at the time was working for SaskTel the phone company as a telephone lineman. I remember him coming home in his cool company van. Sometimes on the weekends, he would take us to his workshop.
He would let us see all his tools and the phones inside of his truck. I remember his tool belt, and of course his big red phone on his tool belt. HAHA!! I’ll get to that! Seeing all the big reels of cable and the building had this unique smell inside. Maybe it was the smell of wood mixed with grease or just the way a warehouse would smell. As a little kid, I had no idea what it was, but it was somehow comforting.
I always loved that he fixed people’s phones and that he knew everybody in the entire area that we lived. Everybody knew he was the phone guy. It was kind of neat.
Just like every little girl, I loved my dad. I always wanted to be just like him, I used to follow him around. As a Tomboy growing up, it did make sense.
This time in my life, is the time I fell in love with the idea of maybe someday being able to follow in my dads footsteps.
I graduated from high school in 1989. At the time, I had applied to our SIAST school to the nursing program, unfortunately l was wait listed. Being 92 on the list, guaranteed I wasn’t getting in that Fall.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. It’s not like I had a clear back up plan.
From the time I was 12 years old, working to make money was important. Obviously at that age, babysitting was the way I earned my own money. The second that I turned 16 and got my license, I went out and found a PT job.
What you ask was my very first job……DRUM ROLL!!!…..delivering pizza for Domino’s. YUP! Very glamorous. It was my first job and my first taste of providing customer service.
Fast forward to 1989. After my plan of continuing my education all by vanished, I realized I needed to get a full time job. So I took my 3 years of fast food experience and landed a full time job with Dairy Queen.
In high school, I took typing class. That was one skill I mastered and found that it might be a great skill that would come in handy.
Realizing that I had to start coming up with a job that was more of a career, I started applying every 3 mos to SaskTel. Yes…the place my dad worked. Trying hard to land any type of job I could at SaskTel. With my typing skills in hand, by May 1990, the HR lady finally got tired of hearing from me. She offered me a summer Clerk position at one of the warehouses. My journey with SaskTel had begun.
My path at SaskTel through the first 10 years had some ups and downs. I It took me almost 3-4 years to actually land a Full Time job and that was as a Telephone Operator. I moved my way through my career at SaskTel, and by the time 1999 rolled around, I had landed a Tech job as a Trunking and Switching Technician that worked inside. I did dispatching and worked on the test desk.
In my dispatching capacity, I spend my days speaking to the outside Lineman and Cable technicians handing out the installs and repairs. I even got to go on a ride along with a Lineman. It was then after that experience on my ride along and my memories of my dad as a Lineman, that I started my quest to become a Lineman.
What would it take
In my mind, finally I was ready to look into what it was going to take for me to be able to qualify for one of these job. The first thing I looked at, what that the education qualifications that were need. I quickly realized that I needed to have my Physics 30 class. It just wasn’t a class I took in high school.
To be able to realize my dream of becoming a Lineman, I had to go night school to get that missing Physics class. Yikes!! Going back to school like 10 years later, not an easy thing to do. Well I jumped in with both feet and was able to complete and pass the class with much hard work.
Back in the late 90s, their was only 1 woman that I knew of that was doing this type of non-traditional role. That gave me hope, that if she could do, then so could I.
OK so now I had the educational requirements, but what about the physical requirements. All the job posting said was that their was a physical obstacle course, that would need to be completed in order to become a successful candidate for this job.
Now anyone that knows me, knows that I am a bigger gal. My weight has gone up and down most of my life. At this point, I had just had my gal bladder out and had lost 25 lbs. This gave me such a boost, that I started working out.
I had talked to people around, to see what the obstacle course entailed. I knew that if I didn’t still with the working out, that I would never pass the test. Lucky enough, I was able to get a step by step of what the test was going to be like. This allowed me to focus my workouts on the areas, that I would need to work on. Things like lifting a 24-foot fiberglass ladder off the truck and up against a telephone pole. Then climbing the ladder to the top cable messenger, tie off and secure the ladder.
Once that was complete, they would throw the end of a rope to you and you were asked to hand over hand pull up a 1/2 full cable lasher. Then reverse the exercise and put the ladder back on the truck. Next you would be expected to put climbing spurs on and go up 3-5 feet once secured and again lift the cable lasher up and back down with your right side, then your left.
Just when you think that has to be all they would ask, their was still the manhole. Yes you heard me. They required you to take a manhole lifter and pull off the lid, then put it back on.
That was essentially the just of what was physically required in order to get a pass on the obstacle course.
Well test day came. Of course being nervous as all heck!. I thought about how much I wanted this job and told myself, that I could do this. I used all the guts and physical strength I could muster that day and I PASSED!!
This was one of the things that I am most proud of in my life. I worked my butt off to get their and to pass was a very proud moment.
Being a lineman
By passing the physical obstacle course and with all the educational requirements, the position of Lineman, or as they called it Customer Service Technician (CST) was mine.
I start my job in 2004 and spent the first few weeks doing in class training. Remember that by 2004 being a Lineman at a phone company was not just fixing people’s dial tone anymore. We also installed Internet and HD TV called Max TV to customers. This meant much in class technical training to set up a Router/Modem, program the Set top box and of course train the customer on the service.
Once class was done, that meant getting my own tools. Honestly getting my tools and tool belt, was one of the best days. And YES I was issued my very own big red phone. HAHA!
It was like a flashback to my dad and how cool I thought it was back then. The tool I am talking about is know as the “BUTT SET“. It was of course red with a keypad with 2 cables and alligator clips on each end. It is used for testing loop telephone lines and chasing dial tone for repairs. This was an exciting day.
Equipped with tools and some knowledge, they paired me up with the women I talked about earlier. The only other women. HAHA! I rode with her for a month every single day and she was my trainer. She would explain things as we went from call to call. Installing, repairing and managing your own workload.
The job requires a tech savvy person, that can also troubleshoot and investigate when things don’t go as planned. This job is a test in time management, as well as a needing the skills to remember and understand cable counts. YIKES!! That takes awhile.
Once you mastered all that, let’s not forget the physical requirements of the job. Lifting that 24 FT ladder on and off your truck. Climbing up and down the ladder with your tool belt. Tracing jumper cables in the neighbor SAC box (Service Area Concept). Basically this is a cross connection point from the larger Central Offices (CO) into the neighborhoods. There is a ton of crouching, kneeling and even digging at times.
The nice part of the type of training I had, with riding with Gloria for that month, we shared the work load. This allowed me to slowly build up my physical stamina, so by the end of the month, I would OK on my own.
Well that day did come and I was issued my own work truck full of inventory I had stocked and then was sent out one my first day alone. I will be honest, I didn’t sleep a wink the night before. Going over and over steps in my head, to remember all the steps I had learned.
Driving up to my first house and I literally thought I was going to be sick. Absolutely nervous. It was a full Max TV, internet install in quite a nice house. I went in and started doing the install. Right away, I realized they had a home alarm which just means that you need to connect the system up with a big more difficulty. It wouldn’t work, no matter what I did. I then needed to go grab stuff from my truck and at this point am a bit panicked. While stepping outside the guys house I twisted my ankle. YUP that happened.
I had to pull myself together and went back in to make a phone call to get some help. It did go well after that and I had SUCCESS!! My first day went on without a hitch and I think that first call literally went so badly that I quickly realized if I could get through that, I could do this job. From that moment on I took it call by call and day by day. I quickly got the hang of it.
The road of me becoming a women lineman was long, full of hard work and extreme determination. To this day almost 16 years later, I look at that journey as a complete success story that I am very proud of.
It was me setting my mind to something, and doing everything I could do to make it happen. I DID THAT!
Most people along the way wondered why I wanted to go do that job, to work outside in the winter, the rain or even in the heat of summer. Why would a GIRL! want to do that. As far as they were concerned, I had a good inside comfortable job.
For me though, it started with that little girl who loved her DAD so much and always looked up to him. Wanting to follow in his footsteps for me was a privilege. The only person whose opinion mattered to me, was my dad. Before I took the job, I called him and asked “Dad do you think I can do this job”? His answer very quickly was absolutely YES. For me that was all that mattered.
Although I only did the job for 5 years, it was something that I am so proud of today. I pushed myself to do something that wasn’t typically a job for women and I conquered it. I would like to think that the fact that their are more women doing Lineman positions at SaskTel had something to do with me being one of the firsts.