Women come into trades, generally in a very different way to men. It is difficult to obtain traditional roles and when we do, they are often gained with the love and support of our family. Last week we shared the story of Bec Sparky and her challenging path, this week we are joined by Rebecca Senyard of The Plumbette to share hers.
Why I decided to become a plumber- My trade story with Rebecca Senyard
In 2006, I was 22 years old and had been married to Jacob for 1 year. At the time I was working full time as a marketing assistant for a transport company and I had been thinking about how to combine work with starting a family. Not that Jacob and I were ready to be parents, but being a planner, I knew we wanted to have kids, I just wasn’t sure how it would work out with my current work situation. I knew I didn’t want to stay in transport, and there were no positions for me to climb up the ladder, so I got a job as a sales executive at another courier company. I was there for 6 weeks, but I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to own my own business, but I wasn’t sure what my new business would be.
I talked to my dad about my desire to have my own business, with the main focus of it being flexible so that I could have children and be the stay at home mum I wanted to be. I knew if I had my own business, I could work my own hours around my future family.
I tossed around different business ideas like pet sitting. Dad suggested we go to a franchise exhibition to see what businesses were out there that I could do.
A couple of days after having that conversation, my dad came back to me with a business idea. It ended up being a business proposal.
My dad asked if I would want to learn about our family plumbing business and take it over when he’d retire. He had always wanted someone in the family to take over our business, he just never considered me to be the one to do it. I remember dad telling me I’d inherit a business that was not only established but making good money, which as many know, can be years to achieve when you start a new business.
The following week, I resigned from my new job, to the shock of my manager who couldn’t believe I’d be leaving after signing up many new businesses the previous week. Once I explained the opportunity, he could see it was something that I was keen to do.
When I started working with dad, he explained how to quote and would show me what a full day was like with him in the truck. We’d be going to meetings, meeting up with builders (our clients), learning how to estimate, how to read plans, how to distinguish the different pipes in a stack, why it was important to view a job before putting together a quote, how to put a job folder together, how to compare prices of fixtures and barter between Reece, Tradelink and Farleys to get the best price, how to put a purchase order in and how to invoice. There was a lot to learn.
After a few months, dad and I realized I would need to do a plumbing apprenticeship to understand plumbing better and if I were to take over the business, I would require a plumbing license.
So I started my plumbing apprenticeship and those 4 years were difficult for me because I was really in a man’s world and the practical side of plumbing didn’t come natural to me. But I had to remember I was there to learn and get my license.
I had a number of challenges during those 4 years as I completed my apprenticeship. There were so many times I wanted to quit, but I’d remind myself that I had to keep going and couldn’t give up.
I can’t tell you the sweet relief it was to finish my final stage of Tafe. A mix of relief, joy and satisfaction of completion.
In the last two years of my plumbing apprenticeship (2008-2009) Dad and I started our domestic maintenance plumbing service. After the GFC, and needing a change in direction for the business as the commercial side was becoming ridiculously crazy with paperwork, safety and litigation, we put some advertisements on 96.5 family radio station to promote our ‘Plumbing with a Woman’s Touch’ plumbing service and encouraged listeners to call The Plumbette.
And that name became my brand and my nickname, if you will, in the plumbing industry. When I decided to start a plumbing blog at the end of 2011, The Plumbette was the most obvious choice for my blog name.
At the end of 2013, Dad made the difficult decision to close our family plumbing business. Not because it wasn’t doing well, but simply because our lives had changed. Dad wanted to retire and I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with my third child, which would mean I’d have 3 children under the age of 4 to look after.
I felt like a bit of a failure during that time of my life and often thought ‘what now?’
I decided I’d put in more effort into The Plumbette and it is now my part-time job – maintaining the content on the blog and being sponsored to write content.
The blog has become the perfect little business for me around my young family and I love that it has allowed me to be home with my girls. All the parts of plumbing that I loved, are now part of my blog and I think that is so cool.
I’ve got exciting plans for the blog both this year and the future. I’m amazed at where a trade license can take you and never dreamed it would take me on a journey to write a blog.
I’d encourage women (and girls) to consider working in construction – because it’s not necessarily working on the tools. There are opportunities beyond the construction site for women who want to give it a go. Of course, if you love working with your hands, there are also those opportunities too.
My story is just one of many women who have decided to give a trade a go. I also know there will be women who will do greater things than what I have achieved in my 10 years of being in the plumbing industry.
I love Bec’s story, especially the support her family and in particular her Father, offered her. I am blessed to know Bec personally and can say there were quite a few challenges she does not share in this story, but I am yet to see her without a smile on her face, and an encouraging hand for others, especially women who are a part of the construction industry. If you would like to know more about Bec’s story, check out her blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Have you considered being a tradie? What area would you like to work in? Construction not your thing? There are many other ways to obtain work in the construction industry, how many are you aware of?