Not being constrained by “dude rules” frees you up to be who you want to be and to do your job better, says Connexis Ultimit Ambassador Danielle Forman, a Power Systems Technician at Electrix.
Danielle, a new recruit to the Connexis Ultimit Ambassador programme, argues that in some ways it is easier being a female in this male, and often still “pretty macho” industry.
It is not merely the fact that Danielle is a woman that has made her a standout in the electricity supply industry. She has qualities that are more unique to her.
One of which is a deep confidence in her own abilities. Even when she is plunged into a new role, Danielle knows she will figure out what is required soon enough.
The first day of Danielle’s apprenticeship, for example, was nerve-wracking, she says. “You show up…and you’re not sure what they’re going to ask you to do.” But she trusted in herself, asked the right questions and quickly learned the skills to get the job done.
She does not take all the credit here though. She says having a great support, in her case a tradesman named Stephen, was central to her success. He took the time to explain why things are done the way they are, she says. He was “patient…really kind and thorough”, knew the rules and shared best practice. “He set me up for success.”
Danielle is also impulsive, being directed along her career path by instinct more than intention.
Born and raised in Auckland, she was a good student and because of this, she was never asked what she would like to do with her future. The question instead was: “What will you do at uni?”. So she started a BA/ BCom and hated it.
After dropping out, her mother urged her to gain a qualification, so Danielle started a trades course at UniTech “out of the blue”. From there she began asking around for an apprenticeship and eventually found a position at Electrix.
It took six years of on-job and self-learning for Danielle to work her way up to her current role. “I never thought of learning a trade until I was doing it,” she says. Now, she says she “wouldn’t do anything else”.
What Danielle loves about her job most of all is the variety. She is not one for doing the same thing day after day and enjoys the chance to experience different aspects of the job including project work, fault finding and equipment maintenance.
She also appreciates the financial benefits of a trade career.. While getting qualified, Danielle was able to save a little every week and paid off the student loan she racked up during her university and Unitech study.
Over the years her salary has improved, enabling her to travel and even buy a house. Danielle describes her new home as “nothing much” but admits it is still a feat for someone of her age to buy into the Auckland property market.
Danielle is decisive and assertive – a combination that has got her far in her career. “I see something and decide I want it.” There is no other plan, she says. Once she has fixed her sights on her next career step, she finds the right person and starts asking. Somehow, the answer is always eventually “yes”, Danielle says.
Danielle does not believe she has experienced any prejudice in her career because she is a women. She describes her colleagues as “really nice dudes” who treat her the same as they treat each other.
She acknowledges that the industry is “still pretty macho”, but believes the influx of younger workers, further spurred by the Free Trades Training currently available, is helping change the working environment. Change is also being led by the corporate side of companies, Danielle says, and that then flows into the field teams.
She believes women can be a real asset to employers, bringing a stronger focus on precision and planning. They are more focused and organised, she says, and are better at listening and working collaboratively.
She says there are no special skills required to work in Infrastructure. She firmly believes there is “nothing special” about herself or the other women who work in the industry. “Anyone can do any job” if you put in the effort to listen, watch and learn, she says. This is certainly the attitude she has brought to her own career.
Just two years into her current role, Danielle is already planning her next move. She has set her sights on the HVDC Inter-Island link, better known as the Cook Strait cable, which connects the electricity networks of the North and South Islands. Not one for self-doubt, she is fairly confident of her chances.