Skip to Content

Tech @ Work Updates

Events , Girls' Programs , Working Woman Wednesday | Jun 24, 2020 | Back to List

Tech@Work has moved virtual! With schools closing for the rest of the year, Vermont Works for Women has decided to conduct online interviews with our Tech@Work speakers.

Tech@Work is a speaker series program that introduces tech center students to gender diverse role models in various industries and career fields, developed in partnership with Burlington Technical Center. Tech@Work Online now allows us to share the speakers’ stories with a wider audience.

Tech @ Work Online: Building and Construction Trades on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

“It’s hard to be [in a tech center program] when you’re the only female-identifying person in a group like that, but it’s important to make friends there and be dedicated to it…As long as you have enthusiasm for the work and what you want to do, that is really the thing that will carry you forward. Other people who are excited about your enthusiasm will be willing to reach out and give you the job or teach you things.”

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Rebecca Grannis, founder and owner of RG Builders, LLC, to discuss building and construction trades for Tech@Work Online. In her business, Rebecca does residential carpentry and remodeling with a focus on green, high-efficiency building.

Rebecca explained that she first got into this career field out of a desire and passion for working with her hands. She got a degree in Wildlife Biology, but was not interested in pursuing a traditional lab- or office-based job in that career field. Instead, she did metalsmithing and jewelry work for a number of years with her father, before starting her own construction company.

Rebecca said that she’s always been interested in building, joking that “I like to say that I built my first house when I was twelve. It was two feet by three feet, [with] little tiny people in it.” She became more interested in residential construction when she bought her first home and did many of the renovations herself.

The process of being a homeowner jumpstarted that passion for wanting to work and do building on houses…If they’re broken, I want to fix them and make them beautiful. And, also understanding that a huge amount of our energy economy is based in how we build houses and what we do to heat and cool them.

She also discussed her experience as a woman in a non-traditional career field. She has experienced a few different challenges, including having difficulty accessing work clothes and tools in women sizes and encountering gendered assumptions, such as sub-contractors assuming that her male colleague is in charge or that she is the homeowner rather than the tradesperson. However, Rebecca noted that these instances often do also offer a chance for conversation and learning.

You don’t accidentally end up as a carpenter as a woman. I had to actively pursue it, find people willing to hire me, and get on a crew. You have to be driven.

Thank you, Rebecca, for joining us as a Tech@Work Online speaker!

Tech @ Work Online: Agriculture and Natural Resources on Friday, July 17, 2020

Vermont Works for Women had the pleasure of chatting with Carolina Lukac, the Garden Education Manager at the Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN), about her experience in the field of agriculture.

Carolina Lukac has a long history in the field of agriculture, primarily with a focus on gardening and urban gardening/farming. Her love for this work originated in Costa Rica during a gap year in college and grew after she returned to her hometown of Mexico City. As Carolina touched upon many times in this discussion, a lot of her career came from doing something that no one else was doing, as well as taking advantage of learning opportunities whenever they arose.

I think back to how many times in my life I’ve had to create something because nobody else was doing it…so I think that entrepreneurial spirit can still happen in an unconventional field like Agriculture and Natural Resources.

She has been teaching in community gardens in Vermont for 6 years now in settings anywhere from teaching gardens, to housing community gardens, to children’s gardens. As Carolina said, “I tend to keep track of my years in the [Vermont Community Garden Network] by seasons, by growing seasons…This is my 6th growing season with VCGN.”

In addition to having a wealth of knowledge about gardening and garden education, Carolina brings knowledge about use of herbs, medicinal qualities of plants, garden pest management, and fermentation, amongst so much else. She credits this to a diverse array of learning opportunities, big and small, formal and informal, and encourages other’s to always keep their eyes and ears open for these.

Carolina explained that working in agriculture is heavily dependent on the weather and climate. In Vermont, where the growing season is quite short, her day-to-day job tasks vary significantly in different seasons. She likes this balance, but ultimately enjoys her time in gardens with community members the most. Carolina’s summers are full of gardening, leading workshops, organizing community gardens, and more, which she has figured out how to fit into her lifestyle even as it changes.

Because we are a nonprofit, even in Vermont, where there isn’t so much diversity, I feel as though I work with every age range, people of different cultures, people of different backgrounds, in different settings, in homes, in schools, in community spaces, and I think that, for me, keeps it exciting… that dynamic energy is really important to me.

Thank you, Carolina, for joining us on Tech@Work Online and sharing your story!

Tech @ Work Online: Restorative Justice on Thursday, July 2, 2020

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Kelly Ahrens and Lauryn Crutchfield from Burlington Community Justice Center (CJC) as speakers for Tech@Work Online on Restorative Justice. Kelly is the Youth Restorative Programs Manager, and Lauryn is the Manager of Restorative, Court Diversion, & Pretrial Services at CJC. Kelly and Lauryn each shared about their experiences in the career field, as well as what drew them to these jobs.

Kelly said that she first entered the justice field through an internship with the Defense Attorney in Washington, D.C., in which she helped prepare clients for their trials. However, she often dealt with serious cases, such as homicides and sexual violence, and she noted it was difficult to be in a position of defending someone if you thought that they were guilty. After moving to Vermont, she discovered Restorative Justice work through an internship at Brattleboro Community Justice Center, and had “her own light bulb moment” about the type of work that she wanted to be doing. She loves that every day is different at her job, and that she gets to occasionally see change happen in the social work, legal, and criminal justice fields.

Every day is different. There is a different challenge every day, and people surprise you all the time. We can’t help but make assumptions in our work, and you see something on paper that a police officer has written and then you meet with that human being. You think you might know how they’re going to come to the table, and they totally surprise you.

~ Kelly Ahrens

At the same time, Kelly noted that the biggest challenge to her job is noticing flaws within the justice system, and not always being able to do something about it from her role in a local office. “We [restorative justice] are an alternative to the [criminal justice] system, but we are also within that system. We know that every level of the system is broken in some way…How do we hold the system accountable to following through via restorative principles?”

Lauryn shared that she has been working at Burlington’s CJC for about a year in her current position, and she has been in this career field for a few years. She was drawn to the Restorative Justice field after going through restorative programs herself. She is in long-term recovery from addiction, and she said that restorative programs helped her recreate her life, make amends with people from her past, and get to where she is today. Now, she wants to use her lived experience to help others overcome the adversities in their lives.

I’ve been able to essentially use my life experiences to start to help others and I think that’s huge in the work that we do, to just show people that if I can change my life around and use restorative work and make amends and be diverted from the typical criminal justice system, then anybody can do it. I want to be able to offer that to loads of people.

~Lauryn Crutchfield

Lauryn said that her favorite parts of her job are getting to help people and having each day be different. “Even though we do the same job, like the same kind of work, you just get to meet so many people and feel that you have an impact on their life.” For her, the biggest challenge to her job is not bringing her work home with her after becoming so invested in people’s lives, and managing the high caseloads they each have in Chittenden County.

Thank you, Kelly and Lauryn, for joining us as Tech@Work Online speakers, and for sharing your experiences and passion for your jobs with us!

Tech @ Work Online: Bicycle Mechanics on Tuesday, June 24, 2020

“My entry way into mechanics started really young…I definitely had a youth inspiration of being able to take something that’s broken and giving it some love and attention and figuring out a way to make it work again. It definitely started with the passion of riding and…feeling the freedom of being able to leave my house for six hours and just go explore as a kid.”

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Meagan Rinier, a Program Coordinator and Lead Community Shop Mechanic at Old Spokes Home, to Tech@Work Online. Meagan discussed her experience in bicycle mechanics and at non-profit and community bicycle shops. She has been in her current position for two years, and has worked in the industry as a whole for eight years.

Meagan explained that her interest in bicycle mechanics stemmed from a young age, initially fueled by her passion for riding bikes when she was a child. However, as she was in college, she realized that pursuing bicycle mechanics was something that she wanted to do as her career. Meagan went back to school at United Bicycle Institute in Oregon to obtain her Professional Mechanic Certification. Now, Meagan says that her favorite part of her job is working on bikes. She described the different aspects of her job, saying that each day is different and ranges from the nonprofit side of the organization – including programming, instructing volunteers, and servicing bikes for Everybody Bikes, their low-income Vermonter transportation program – to the retail side of the organization – including selling new and used bicycles, recycling bicycles, and repairing bicycles.

Meagan said that it was challenging to enter this career field, as a lot of the shops that she visited didn’t want to hire an inexperienced mechanic, especially someone who was a woman entering a male-dominated field. Meagan noted that, for a lot of sole proprietor bike shops, “it didn’t seem like a typical fit for a female to be [a bicycle mechanic], which seems crazy, but at the same time, it was also on the lines of ‘well, if you say I can’t do it, then I’m going to try harder and do it anyway.’” Meagan highlighted that returning to school and getting her certification helped her to get her foot in the door at other bike shops and allowed her to gain the necessary experience and move forward in this career field. Meagan was the only female mechanic in her previous jobs at bike shops, but she said she is lucky to now be working with a few other awesome female mechanics at Old Spokes Home.

I definitely wanted to be that individual that could come through and show my professionalism and represent myself through my skill sets, and not necessarily be the only female that works there, but also be a really powerful female that has a lot of skills and can hold a management role and that can be a mover-and-shaker in whatever the business is needing at the time.

Thank you, Meagan, for sharing your story as a Tech@Work Online speaker!

Tech @ Work Online: Engineering on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

“See yourself as part of a team – not as a woman on the team. Don’t see yourself as different in capabilities. Know that you have something of value to offer and have a good work ethic. Work hard.” – Renee Robyor

Vermont Works for Women (VWW) was pleased to interview Renee Robyor for Tech@Work Online. Renee is currently a Senior Principal Quality Engineer at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. Previously, she worked at General Dynamics as a Quality Engineer for the Hydra-70 Rocket Program and also as a Systems Engineer on the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Gun System. Overall, she has been at General Dynamics for 18 years.

Renee said that she was “mechanically-oriented growing up.” She liked to build things, and she took a shop class in middle school to explore building and creating objects. She enjoyed math and science in high school, and she ultimately decided to pursue engineering in college. Renee received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. She explained that – although the school had a good engineering program – she also appreciated that it supported her other interests: tennis and ice hockey.

Don’t be afraid to try something you’re interested in.

After college, Renee held a variety of jobs over the years, including purchasing support equipment for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft for the Naval Air Engineering Center in New Jersey, providing calibration equipment and procedures for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft in Southern California, and providing processes and requirements for cleaning up hazardous nuclear waste for Lockheed Martin, Hanford division in Washington state. Now, Renee works with a team of 8-10 people to coordinate with payload supplies of General Dynamics’ rockets.

Be open to trying new things in your career. If you have an opportunity that presents itself, take it…Sometimes it’s very daunting if you don’t know about it, but try it. You’ll acquire skills that will help you be more valuable to your employers.

On a day-to-day basis, she checks in with suppliers to see how production is going, communicates with her client (the Department of the Army), reviews and approves test plans and reports, and runs failure analyses, among other tasks. She says that what she loves most about her job is the people: “I love working with my teammates. That’s one of the best things – usually it’s the people.”

Thank you, Renee, for joining us on Tech@Work Online!

Tech @ Work Online: Welding on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

“It’s been a life of cobbling together the strangest professions. I’ve done decorative interior house painting, murals, I’ve done alterations and sewing. I think no matter what you do you’re going to learn something, no education is ever a waste. It will apply somehow in your life, you just never know.” – Sabrina Fadial

Vermont Works for Women was grateful and excited to interview Sabrina Fadial for Tech@Work Online! Sabrina is a blacksmith, sculpture artist, educator, and studio owner of Stevens Branch Studios in Central Vermont.

Sabrina’s pathway to her current career began with what she refers to as “the best biggest mistake ever,” in which she wound up enrolled in a blacksmithing class when the glassblowing class she attempted to enroll in filled up. Sabrina studied at Rhode Island School of Design and the College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, but credits the many other opportunities in between for building her significant repertoire of artistic skills and specialties.

The headquarters of Sabrina’s work is Stevens Branch Studios which she has developed from the ground up and is located next to her house. This is where a typical day in her life is centered – it has all of the tools she would need, including a forge, anvil, welder, and more, an array of materials for metal work and other forms of creativity, and plenty of space for spreading out and sculpture making. Sabrina also hosts artists at her studio, which she refers to as a “creative incubation space.” People often come to her saying, “I want to make a, fill in the blank,” and Sabrina will work with them to find space in the studio that meets each individual and their project’s needs.

Sabrina filled us in on some of her current and past projects, including decorative, architectural iron work such as railings and chandeliers (which she will also do the electrical wiring for), and huge metal sculptures of blossoms and other forms. When asked about how projects show up on her doorstep, she explained that “the projects that have come through [her] studio have been so wildly diverse,” including requests from builders who are looking for specialty components, art residencies in other parts of the country, or art pieces made to be sold in galleries, shops, or online.

It’s been wonderful to be able to just get to a point in my life that I can choose the work I do and stay true to myself and really following by bliss and where that’s led me.

Sabrina also went into some of the challenges of owning a business and being a working artist. “You’re never not working, you’re never not thinking about how you’re going to pay the mortgage … you have to be a business entrepreneur, know how to file your taxes online, know how to make a spreadsheet.” Sabrina explained that she has had to learn how to do the business side of things on her own because she didn’t learn about any of it in art school. She admitted that you “figure it out along the way” but that as your own boss, you are responsible for every part of the business, including the finances, communications, time management and more. Additionally, Sabrina touched upon some of the challenges of being a woman in the field, including being talked down to in some scrap yards and hardware stores, as well as not being able to find equipment that fits properly.

Thank you, Sabrina, for joining us on Tech@Work Online!

Tech @ Work Online: Software Development on Thursday, May 14, 2020

“This is a good job if you’re someone who’s curious and someone who likes to learn and wants to keep learning throughout their career…If you even have a little inkling in your mind that you might be interested in a career in tech, then try it. Absolutely try it.” – Julie Berlin

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome three women from the Software Development team at OnLogic as speakers for Tech@Work Online: Allison Lawrence, Julie Berlin, and Moriah Hounsell.

Allison is the Development Team Manager, Julie is the Lead Web Developer, and Moriah is the Business Analyst with the Software Development team. Allison, Julie, and Moriah add a unique perspective in the Tech@Work Online speaker series, as they each offer a different viewpoint into the Software Development field and allow students to see the truly wide spectrum of jobs available within a given career field.

In the discussion, each of the women shared the different paths they took to reach the jobs they have today.

Allison explained that her interest in building websites began at around the age of 11 during homeschool. She went on to get a degree in Software Engineering at Vermont Technical College – in which she was the only woman out of eight students in her program – before working as a Developer at OnLogic. After doing that for several years, she was offered the opportunity to move into her current manager role. She felt that this transition was challenging, but ultimately fulfilling and helped her learn about herself.

As she said, “I found some days were a lot harder than others and I [thought], “Am I any good at this? I don’t know why I’m doing this”…then the days that you find success and satisfaction, those really help you recognize “what is it to be fulfilled in your career?” and “what are you looking for?” In her role, Allison said that her main focus is to support her Software Development team and to protect the goals of the team.

In my short time from college to career, I’ve seen such a transition and so many more women come into [the tech field]…A lot of meetings that I’m in are a lot of women and it’s really cool to see. It’s such an interesting shift from being in college with almost entirely male [students]…it’s just such a shift to see that start to balance out.

~Allison Lawrence

Julie’s path to her current job included exploring a variety of other career options before pursuing a tech career. She said that she attended school for Fine Arts and painted for a while. Following that, she held jobs as a police officer, a Mutual Fund Representative (in the finance industry), and finally a job doing data visualization, design and marketing. It was through the last job that she began to move more and more into the technical components, and realized her interest in the computer technology field.

In her current job, she said that “there are days – that Alison said – it’s frustrating and you feel like you can’t do it…but it’s much outweighed by the victories. When you get something figured out and it works, it’s such a great rush.” In her role, Julie said that she focuses on completing “tickets,” or tasks, that come in each day with technical problems that need to be addressed.

I have experienced some challenges in this career and have worked with workplaces where it is mostly men…Sometimes your co-workers can be really great but management doesn’t…see you as being as capable as other men who are less experienced even than you…I think that for a woman who is going into this career and looking at different companies…it’s definitely a good sign when a company hires women in all levels of the company, in leadership roles and in technical roles…I would say that’s a signal of a good experience, a workplace that cares and values the perspective of women and [gender non-conforming] people.

~ Julie Berlin

Moriah said that working in the technology industry was not something that she originally set out to do. She got a degree at college in Anthropology, and she explained that she struggled a bit to know what path she wanted to follow. She considers herself a creative person and she runs a photography business on the side. However, Moriah explained that she’s found that her current job supports her creativity through working on innovative ideas that fit within technical limitations. In fact, she feels that the technical restrictions actually push her to be even more creative.

Overall, she advised that “being open to where life takes you…has been way more interesting than me trying to prescribe what I do with my life.” In her role, Moriah said that she communicates with their business clients to ensure that orders are detailed, defined clearly, and communicated well to the Software Development team.

Something I’ve struggled with [is] – did I get this because I’m a woman unique or because I’m capable? So that’s always something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but now as you see things kind of evening out, I’m asking myself that question less because I know now that I’m getting this role, I’m getting this job, because I’m capable. And, having that becoming more of the trend has been really empowering.”

~Moriah Hounsell

Thank you, Allison, Julie, and Moriah, for joining us as Tech@Work Online speakers!

Tech @ Work Online: Automotive Technology on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

“Don’t be scared. If this is something you really want to even just try to do, go for it. There are places out there that are willing to take you in and teach you from scratch. You don’t have to have professional experience, as long as you’re willing to do the work and you want to learn.” – Natasha Arnold

Natasha Arnold joined Vermont Works for Women as a Tech@Work Online speaker to tell us about her career as an Auto Technician at Heritage Toyota.

Natasha said that she was interested in auto mechanics as early as first grade. After high school, she eventually discovered an auto tech pathway at Heritage Toyota where people with little to no professional experience could train and learn on the job.

Natasha started at Heritage four years ago as a TXM technician, doing oil changes, tire rotations and other basic things. After a few years, she moved on to the Toyota training school and became a certified electrical and engine technician. Though she doesn’t have a significant amount of customer interaction and considers herself introverted, one of Natasha’s favorite things about her job is the people. She likes to help customers and to make sure the vehicles are safe for the road.

She also loves the hands-on nature of her work. In a typical day, Natasha may service between 10-15 cars, though the number greatly depends on what each individual job is, and what additional “up-sells” are required. “Up-sells” are assessments of a car’s needs beyond what the customer came in for.

Natasha shared some photos of her shop and bay. The Heritage shop has upwards of 20+ bays and Natasha has her own dedicated bay space. She showed pictures of the tire mounter and balancer, as well as all the toolboxes she utilizes. Natasha shared that she is the only female-identifying person in the shop. Although she anticipated it being a lot more difficult getting into a male-dominated field, she has found a very supportive environment at Heritage and her coworkers are accepting and caring.

I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult – being female and my sexual orientation – going into this type of job where you’re surrounded by mostly men…but to be honest, it’s actually been very good for me, I think. Everybody there is so accepting and they really care about each other. They don’t see a girl; they don’t see a guy; they see someone there who’s willing to work and wants to learn.

Natasha explained that at Heritage, TXM technicians start out at $14/hour. As you progress and get certifications, you move to a flat rate pay, which is pay by the job. At that point, it is all about your drive and your willingness; a technician can make anywhere between $40,000-$100,000 per year. Natasha encourages young people who are interested in the field to go for it and not be scared! There are places out there who are willing to take young people in and train them if they have the drive and are willing to learn.

Thank you for joining us as a Tech@Work Online speaker, Natasha!

Tech @ Work Online: Digital Media on Tuesday, May 5, 2020

“Taking pictures can obviously happen at any age…It’s great to see kids starting to carry around cameras and look at the world around them and frame it as a starting place,” Jude Domski

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to interview Jude Domski as a part of Tech@Work Online. Jude is a freelance photographer and videographer, and she also works as a Production Tech at the Media Factory.

Jude said that she first became interested in storytelling through participating in theater productions. After studying theater in high school and college, Jude transitioned from creating stories to capturing them through photography and videography. Jude noted that – although her art form has changed – her motivation remains the same: to tell mission-driven stories and share those with her audiences.

Now, as a photographer, Jude enjoys the freedom to be able to pick up her camera and start working immediately on projects, as well as the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations. As she said, “I do love the eclectic and diverse and wide-ranging client base that I have and things that I get to do on a daily basis.”

“I love that every day is different. I really love the diversity of people and organizations and events that I cover. It’s an ongoing learning experience and puts me in the path of a lot of different communities and a lot of different missions and objectives for who I’m working for.”

Jude offered advice to students who are hoping to getting started in digital media themselves, saying that age or gender should not pose any barrier. “Start. Start right away. You can pick up a camera or you can start story boarding or sketching and taking notes…There are a lot of resources out there where gender and age are not limitations at all and…really the best way to learn is just to start doing.” Thank you, Jude, for sharing your story with us!

To see Jude’s work, please visit her website here. To find out more about the Media Factory, please see its website here. Finally, if you are interested in exploring digital media while at home, please see below for two opportunities:

In-Sight Photography’s Project

Mission:  The In-Sight Photography Project and its Exposures Cross-Cultural Youth Arts Program empower youth, through photography, to find their own creative voices and to communicate their unique personal visions. Classes in photographic arts are provided regardless of ability to pay. The curriculum is guided by understanding and respect for individuals, communities, and cultures.

During the year, they serve students age 11 – 18. In the summers, they offer programs for 17 – 21 year olds.

The Covid/ Quarantine project they have going on is a scavenger hunt posted every week (students can join any time). The images are posted on their Instagram and Facebook and will culminate in a gallery exhibit.

The Media Factory’s weekly virtual Meet-Ups

Details: Meet online with Media Factory Staff to discuss how to work with what you’ve got at home to create high quality, professional media. Learn how to find the right lighting to really shine on a webcam. Discover the best ways to dampen your audio for those radio-rich vocals. This discussion is suited for anyone looking to enhance their home videos and home podcast recordings using tips, tricks, and tools found in your home.

Tech @ Work Online: Culinary Arts on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

“I love connecting with people through food…I’ve always loved making food for people and sharing it, so being able to do that as my job is pretty lucky.” – Hailey Cohn

Vermont Works for Women had the pleasure of interviewing Hailey Cohn, a chef and business owner, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Hailey is currently the Kitchen Manager and Client Communications Manager at Woodbelly Pizza & Catering, and she owns her own catering and confections business, called Satori Foods.

Hailey has been interested in cooking for a long time, and she said that she was born into it. “I think all of my best memories as a child are from my aunts and my mom in the kitchen, just having a great time, laughing and singing and cooking together…Then sitting and eating together was always a really beautiful way to come together and connect over something that everybody enjoyed at the same time.”

In middle school, Hailey began cooking for family parties, which allowed her to hone her cooking abilities. She later began working in a small café and has been in the restaurant industry ever since.

“If you’re passionate about food, go for it. This is one business that – even in this time, even a time when people can’t really go out to eat – we’re making it work. This is one business that I’m pretty convinced will be around for the long haul, so there will always be food industry jobs to have.”

Hailey said that her favorite part of owning Satori Foods is her ability to have creative reign over the chocolates and food that she makes. However, she also noted that owning a business brings with it many challenges, such as a lack of guaranteed income, working either alone or with a staff that relies heavily on her, and facing the unknown. Hailey emphasized that a lack of guaranteed income is even harder now, during a time of quarantine and social distancing. “It’s really really hard to stay motivated when you’re unsure of your income…we all have bills to pay.”

Hailey discussed her experience as a woman in the restaurant industry as well. She noted that, although it is changing, the majority of chefs are male. Because of this, Hailey said that having confidence and trust in herself is vital, especially when in a managerial position.

In her past, she experienced some pushback against her leadership from chefs and saw less respect for her than for her peers. To move forward, Hailey relied on having confidence in her knowledge and skill as a chef. She identified the importance of having role models in the industry to show her how to have confidence in the kitchen. Thank you, Hailey, for joining us as a Tech@Work Online speaker!

Tech @ Work Online: Human Services on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

“I would advise young folks to be out in the community…or just volunteering at a local community organization because the connections you make are going to be really important in the future, especially if you’re thinking of social work or human development as a major in high school.” – Aden Haji

On April 1, 2020, Vermont Works for Women had the pleasure of speaking with Aden Haji, Youth Coordinator for the Multicultural Youth Program (MYP) at Spectrum Youth and Family Services.

Aden first became involved with Spectrum’s MYP as a participant in their 2018 Multicultural Youth Leadership Conference, before later joining the MYP team as a staff member. Now, he has been with MYP for a year and a half.

Aden described his work as creating connections with youth by meeting them where they are at. For example, he runs the Help Desk in Burlington High School, Winooski schools, and Essex, where he and other MYP staff help students meet a variety of needs, from getting their driver’s license to applying for jobs. Aden said that the biggest challenge in his job is language barriers that arise when working with English Language Learners. However, interpretive services allow him and other MYP staff to overcome this. “Language,” he said, “shouldn’t be a barrier when helping students out…It’s still very important for them to get the services that they need.”

Even now, with school shut down due to the public health crisis, Aden continues to focus on meeting the students’ needs. He is currently case managing four youth, checking in on them and their families to ensure that they have everything that they need.

Overall, Aden shared that working with youth and his team are his favorite parts of his job. Aden said that his passion for helping youth led him to this career path, and he offered advice to students, saying that:

“Everyone has the capacity to make change, so whatever your heart feels like or whatever you think your passion is, I would say, ‘Just go ahead and do it.’ There’s no problem with re-evaluating and coming up with a Plan B, so if you have a passion in mind, just go ahead for it.”

Thank you, Aden, for participating in Tech@Work Online and sharing your story with us!

Stay tuned for more Tech@Work Online interviews by subscribing to Vermont Works for Women on YouTube.

Tech @ Work: Auto Body Repair on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Erika Rouille

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Erika Rouille, a Paint Specialist at O’Reilly Auto Parts, as the Tech @ Work speaker for students in the Auto Body Repair program. Erika graduated from the Auto Technology program at BTC in 2004, before going on to attend Ohio Technical College for Auto Body Repair in Cleveland, OH.

Erika shared that she was the only girl in her Auto Tech program at BTC, and one of only 12 women out of 1800 students at Ohio Technical College. Nevertheless, she stuck with what she loved, and went on to work for 10 years as a painter in two major Auto Body Shops.

“You’re going to face challenges; it’s going to be about your attitude.” [In reference to being a non-traditional candidate in the field] – Erika

Now, she manages paint orders and offers technical support to companies and individuals. Erika said that helping customers is her favorite part of her job. She likes knowing that she can help someone else figure out the solution to their problem – she knows the paint and she communicates well, and people can rely on her to provide the right answer.

Auto Repair shop

Erika emphasized the benefits of working in the auto field, noting that auto education is affordable and the industry fulfills an ongoing need in people’s lives. She also gave the students some advice as they continue with the first part of their auto education. She told them that painting is a learning experience – the students will make mistakes, but that’s okay and will help them learn the techniques. Ultimately, they should do what they love.

If they love Auto Body Repair, they should keep working on it and it will be a rewarding career.

Thank you, Erika, for joining us as a Tech @ Work speaker!

Tech @ Work: Design and Illustration Tech on Monday, February 10, 2020

Carolyn Bauer

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Carolyn Bauer, an Associate Curator from the Shelburne Museum, as the Tech @ Work speaker for Burlington Tech Center’s Design & Illustration program on Monday, February 10th.

Carolyn described her work to students, including her roles of caring for the museum’s permanent art collection, designing new exhibits, doing press releases, and publishing articles. Carolyn has curated over 12 exhibits, each of which takes about three years to coordinate from start to finish. Carolyn noted that an exhibit on puppets was a particularly challenging one for her to plan, as she did not have much previous knowledge on the topic. This meant that she had to do extensive research on the history and art of puppetry in order to plan the exhibit’s design and choose the best pieces to display. However, across all exhibits, Carolyn noted that the paint selection for the walls is one of the hardest aspects of preparing exhibits, and typically occurs 8-12 months before the exhibit opens.

Speaking of the art world more broadly, Carolyn shared information on gender inequalities within art careers. Although women make up about 50% of the career field, there is still a significant gender wage gap, with the average female curator making at least $20,000 less than their male counterparts. As with many fields, sexual harassment claims have also recently surfaced after the #MeToo movement. Then, even though there is gender equality among curators, there is still a large gender disparity when considering the artists whose works are displayed in museums.

Carolyn recognizes this and tries to incorporate artwork by female artists into the exhibits that she designs.

“I am incredibly grateful for the path that brought me to my dream job of working as an art curator. Some of the most formative memories from my youth were formed visiting art museums. I loved spending time in the quiet galleries, contemplating minute details about the fine art in front of me—I was especially drawn to the works and biographies of talented female artists. I hope to, in turn, inspire future generations of creatives through exhibitions I am organizing.” 

Finally, Carolyn shared figures to show the typical career advancement and salaries for being a curator. She noted that it is a competitive field – only around 10 jobs open per year, per art specialty – but that it is worth it for those that have a passion and love for the arts.

Thank you, Carolyn, for joining us as a Tech @ Work speaker!

Tech @ Work: Aviation and Aerospace Tech on Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Desiree Cerretani

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Desiree Cerretani, a Senior Operations Manager at Collins Aerospace, as the Tech @ Work speaker for Burlington Tech Center’s Aviation & Aerospace Technology program. Desiree started at Collins Aerospace as a Mechanical Engineer before moving to her current role as an Operations Manager of two teams, the Electric Brakes and the Tank Units (fuel systems) teams. Desiree said that she became interested in aviation out of a desire to keep people safe. Collins Aerospace designs and manufactures equipment for planes, helicopters, and missiles, and Desiree emphasized the importance of making sure that each piece of equipment that the company produces is reliable, durable, and of high quality.

Burlington Tech Center’s Aviation & Aerospace Technology program

Desiree also discussed some of the challenges that she encounters. For example, Collins Aerospace’s overseas clients have occasionally acquired and used contaminated fuel and oil, which degrades the quality of the aircraft’s fuel systems faster than on average. The engineers must then devise a method for bettering the fuel systems so that they remain in good order even when exposed to contaminations. This is particularly challenging though, as they are not always able to identify the contaminants and various additives affect the fuel systems differently. Then, as Operations Manager, Desiree considers how the production process can be improved. She spoke of creating a more efficient production process after asking the staff on her teams what they needed to be successful, and supporting them in attaining those needs.

Lastly, Desiree gave students advice and encouraged them to take advantage of new opportunities and to work in a field that they love. Thank you, Desiree, for joining us as a Tech @ Work speaker!

Bottom line: Be happy in what you do and you will succeed.

Tech @ Work: Design Tech on Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Kristi Herzer

Vermont Works for Women was pleased to welcome Kristi Herzer, an Environmental Analyst for the Department of Environmental Conservation, as the Tech @ Work speaker for the Design Tech program at Burlington Tech Center.

Kristi described her work on the Brownfields Response Team – “brownfields” are any sites or plots of land that have real or perceived contamination on the property – including managing about 50 projects, reading reports, talking to current and prospective property owners, and researching the history of properties. Kristi noted that historical sites, industrial factories, and, oddly, dry cleaners are more likely to have contamination on their sites. Regionally, too, there are certain areas that are more likely to have contamination. For example, the soil in the Old North End in Burlington tends to have some level of lead contamination from the historical use of lead paint there.

Kristi discussed the benefits of cleaning up brownfield sites, such as protecting people’s health and enabling businesses to redevelop sites instead of generating further city sprawl. Kristi showed the students a resource called the Natural Resource Atlas, which allows the public to view any hazardous sites or brownfields on a map of Vermont, as well as to check the status of the clean-up of the brownfields.

Yellow diamonds are hazardous sites and green pentagons are brownfields

Thank you, Kristi, for an in-depth and enriching presentation!

Tech @ Work: Digital Media Lab on Wednesday, December 11

On Wednesday, December 11th, Dana Steinhoff and Megan McAvoy from Rad Magpie came to the Burlington Technical Center to speak to students from the Digital Media Lab, Design and Illustration, and Design Tech programs.

Megan McAvoy and Dana Steinhoff

Dana and Megan discussed the importance of the mission at Rad Magpie, a nonprofit video game studio, to create video games that portray strong character leads from all gender, race, and ethnic backgrounds. They showed the students a prototype video game on which their team is currently working. The video game follows the story line of a Sri Lankan character, and Megan pointed out the multiple design and sound technology elements that were involved in creating the video game. Both Dana and Megan shared how they got involved in video game design, and Dana elaborated on the challenges encountered from managing a start-up company.

Thank you, Megan and Dana, for participating in Tech @ Work!

Tech @ Work: Criminal Justice on Monday, December 9

Trooper Katrina Ducharme

Trooper Katrina Ducharme from the Vermont State Police joined Criminal Justice students at the Burlington Technical Center as a speaker for Tech @ Work on December 9th.

Trooper Ducharme shared her experience as a trooper with the students, including challenges faced in the field as a woman, person of color, and an English Language Learner. Trooper Ducharme began her law enforcement career in the Williston Police Department and then moved to the Brandon Police Department before starting in her current role with the Vermont State Police. In both Williston and Brandon, she was the only woman in the police department. In the Vermont State Police, she is one of 36 women out of 322 troopers and is the only Indian.

Trooper Ducharme noted that oftentimes she encounters prejudice from community members based on her race and/or gender, and that she believes the best way to manage these encounters is through making connections and talking to people in a forward and professional manner. Trooper Ducharme said that her ultimate goal is to become the first female Colonel in the Vermont State Police.

Trooper Ducharme with Burlington Technical Center students

Thank you, Trooper Ducharme, for sharing your experiences with us!

Tech @ Work: Culinary Arts on Monday, November 4

Leslie McCrorey Wells

Today, VWW was delighted to welcome Leslie McCrorey Wells, co-owner of Pizzeria Verità, Trattoria Delia, and Sotto Enoteca, as the Tech @ Work presenter for the Culinary Arts students at BTC. Leslie described how she first considered careers in theater and history education before coming to realize her passion for the restaurant industry. Leslie joined with her current business partner to open Pizzeria Verità in 2012, and they have since expanded to co-own three Italian restaurants on St. Paul Street.

Leslie discussed the difficulties of owning a restaurant, including handling unexpected expenses with a small profit margin of only 4-6%, balancing wage disparities between front-of-house and back-of-house employees, and adapting to accommodate the needs of 75 different employees. Yet, despite these difficulties, Leslie shared significant business successes: one of her businesses saw sales totaling $2 million last year, she has strong management teams at each of the restaurants, and she has successfully cultivated a restaurant philosophy that provides excellent customer service and values every employee.

Leslie is an inspiring business owner with years of experience, and we are grateful to her for sharing her story!

Special thanks to our Tech@Work partner,
Burlington Technical Center!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *