Today we’re talking to DC, @dc_andrade on Instagram. Going from welding class in high school to working in a NASCO shipyard, he’s had quite a journey in his 7 years of welding. Now, he’s a YesWelder ambassador and on the cusp of launching his own welding brand.
DC lives in San Diego with his wife and two children. At 16 years old in high school, DC got into welding by accident. He ended up in the wrong class but found a love for welding so he kept going. “There’s no welding in the family; my dad is a landscaper and my mom is a housekeeper. So I’m the first generation! I’d like to pass some welding knowledge on to my kids, even just the basics. It would feel like a waste otherwise.”
After high school, he went onto trade school where he practiced the most common types of welding: stick, MIG, TIG, and flux-cored.
“The idea was to choose one to specialize in, but I chose them all. I wanted to master all those welding processes! On top of that, I was working my first welding job, so I guess I put more focus on that. In the end, I didn’t graduate - and though I got great experience at school, I got much more value from work. So I’m not too bothered about it.”
That’s not to say qualifications don’t count though. “Hopefully in the next month or so I’ll be able to get pipe welding certified through work. We’re super busy though, so we’ll see!”
Working your way up in the welding world
“It all boils down to confidence. Being confident in your work, knowing your value and getting paid what you’re worth.”
While at school, DC got his first welding job with San Diego Metalcraft, a one-man set up in a garage.
“The owner Mike took me on with no experience at all, and taught me everything he knew. He shared all his knowledge with me and it really got me started in my welding career so I’m really grateful to him. Some people can be really cagey about what they know and don’t want to help people learn. It’s kinda weird, like they think you’re gonna steal their job or something! It’s a shame that there are people like that but most people are really helpful and encouraging.”
A turbulent few years followed, with job stints often lasting months or even weeks at a time. “I kind of bounced around a lot and worked for some really bad companies...but even there, I always learned something. From each experience I had, I took it in and carried it with me, and now I have that knowledge in my arsenal. It’s really useful when you’re out in the field and need to get creative with limited materials!”
What was it that made the companies bad? Mostly, long shifts and being underpaid. Welding is a highly skilled and dangerous trade, yet wages often don’t reflect that.
“For the first 5 years I was welding I don’t think I made much more than $20 per hour,” DC admits. “Even after putting in 12-hour shifts, I told myself that even if I wasn’t getting the money, I was getting the experience. I was reluctant to ask for more money as I underestimated myself.”
This echoes conversations we’ve had with others in the #WhyWeWeld series: it all boils down to confidence. Being confident in your work, knowing your value and getting paid what you’re worth.
Getting your confidence in welding
Welding is tough. You won’t pick up a torch for the first time and be an expert the next time you do it. Welding is a time-intensive skill - you need to put the hours in to get the rewards.
“Don’t be discouraged!” DC urges. “Welding is not easy, especially if you’re going it alone. Just keep learning, keep practicing, and really get to know your machine. That goes for whatever type of welding you’re doing. Any experience you can get is great, be it in school or on the job.”
“People can have this belief that it’s best to have worked for one company for years, but switching jobs isn’t a bad thing. Meeting new people and getting the chance to try your hand at something new is really valuable. Learn anything you can from other people.”
So who have been the inspirational people for DC?
“It’s really hard to choose just one name, I’ve learned so much from my supervisors and co-workers in every job I’ve had, even the really bad ones. Out of all the old’ timers and superiors I’ve worked with, I have to say that Mike Bolden, the guy that gave me my first welding job, has to top the list. He hired me with no previous experience and kickstarted my welding career. I’m so grateful to him for that opportunity.”
Onwards and upwards
Nowadays, DC is working at a shipyard for NASCO, after working in sheet metal for a few years. Starting out in the shipyard, he’s now working on all kinds of ships, including the refurbishment of Harper’s Ferry, a vehicle transport ferry that is over 40 years old.
“Pipework is really intense. You’ve gotta rip out the old piping and figure out how you’re gonna get the new stuff in - and that’s before you’ve done any actual welding,” he laughs. “It forces you to be creative when you’re out in the field and may not have the stuff you need to hand. On top of that pressure and welding in tight spots, we’re sort of working for the Navy and the government, so everything is monitored and our safety has to be on point. Safety is important anyway of course, but we literally have no wiggle room. That puts extra pressure on, but things are going well for me here at the moment so I don’t want to jinx anything!”
Speaking of safety and equipment, we had to find out about DC’s favorite piece of equipment.
“My Jackson W60 is my favorite hood, I’ve bought it like three times! It’s what I use to weld at home. People think my smile hood would be my favorite and I love it, but it’s more for looks. My Jackson is my go-to for sure.”
Down & Dirty Welders
There’s no escaping the fact that welding is dangerous. You’re working with insanely high temperatures and electricity, often in cramped spaces. “One thing I’ve seen is a bit of a divide between people that are willing to get down and dirty for their job. Some people will go above and beyond to get the job done, even if it involves extra hard work or getting burned in the process. I set up Down & Dirty Welders for those people.”
Down & Dirty Welders is DC’s own welding brand selling stickers for hoods, helmets, and the like. “My father in law does the sticker designs and I do everything else. I’m expecting a delivery of stickers this week so it’s about to really take off. Watch this space!”
And what does the future hold for DC?
“When I’m retired from welding I’d like to become an instructor somewhere, or even set up my own school where you’re not just welding all day every day. A school where you’d do real-life welding simulations for practice in the field.”
And on that note, we call it a day for now, but we’ll be checking in with DC to see how he’s getting on soon! In the meantime, follow him on Instagram dc_andrade
and check out Down & Dirty Welders for some awesome hood stickers!