#WhyWeWeld: Sharon Guerrero
At YesWelder, we aim to share the stories of welders with all levels of experience, and in writing this blog post, we wanted to learn more about the journey of learning to weld. To learn more about this experience, we chatted with Sharon Guerrero.
Sharon is a welding student based in Houston, Texas, who aims to eventually become a welding instructor. Through an Associates Degree program at a local community college, she has learned four welding processes so far.
She told us about how she is learning to weld, her experience as a student, and how she believes more young women can be encouraged to join the trades:
It's always great to chat with welding students. Can you tell us why you chose to learn to weld?
The first time I ever heard about welding was when I was in high school. Some of my friends were learning how to weld in dual credit in college. I remember showing interest and asking a friend what it was like and if it was something that a girl could do as well. I never gave it much thought again until 2020. I knew I wanted to go back to school and do something with my life, but I also knew that I am a very hands-on person.
For some reason welding came to me as an option. I thought to myself “Heck, what’s more hands on than welding?”. I was still having some doubt about doing it mainly because I had zero idea what welding even was and I was scared, I just knew it sounded interesting. I had a talk with a friend, who is a very experienced welder, and he gave me the last ounce of courage that I needed to register into the welding program at the college I now attend.
My spouse was also always very supportive of me wanting to weld which made me feel encouraged to have all the support from him in this journey I wanted to begin. One year later here I am amazed at how much I have achieved.
What has the experience of learning to weld been like so far?
As I stated before, when I first started, I had no idea how welding worked or what it even was. You can only imagine how amazed I was when I learned that there are many different types of processes and that they all work with different techniques.
I have so far learned four different processes (Stick, TIG, MIG, and Fluxcore) and I’m excited to learn many more. I feel amazed sometimes to even be able to say that I am able to use all these different processes. I feel extremely lucky to have some of the best welding instructors teach me what they know. They have always been nothing but patient with me even when I find myself struggling with a certain position or process. I truly do love welding and I get excited every time I’m about to learn a new process.
We've seen questions from young people who are interested in learning to weld, but don't know where to begin. Can you tell us about how you're learning to weld, and how you got started?
I constantly get this question on my social medias from people wanting to learn as well. I personally decided to enroll into the welding program at my nearest community college. I did it all online because this was in 2020 and there was no such thing as going up to the campus to enroll.
With COVID last year, the whole process of enrolling became more frustrating than it had to be. I’m glad I didn’t give up on it and pushed through the long process because it has been worth it. When I initially enrolled into the welding program, I was going for a certificate in Combo Welding because it was the fastest, but as I started learning and loving it, I changed my major to an Associates of Applied Science in Welding Technology. This will open more opportunities for me in the future.
Which elements of your course have you found to be the easiest to learn and the most challenging to grasp?
Personally, I have found that learning how to MIG weld was the easiest process for me so far. Having spent months learning Stick on plate & pipe made MIG welding seemed like a breeze. Now, I do have to say that the hardest part for me was learning how to pipe weld. Some days I would get so frustrated (especially with root passes) that I just wanted to quit.
I remember on one of my worst days, when I was working on my 5G, I told my welding instructor… “Pipe welding is not for me, I hate it. I’m going to have to just be a structural welder.” He then told me something that I will never forget. He said “It’s not easy, it's hard. This is why people get paid $40+ an hour to do the job.” And I realized he was right -- pipe welding isn’t a high paying job for no reason.
I also had to constantly remind myself that I am new to this trade and I’m not going to be perfect right off the bat. I then started putting in all the practice hours that I could, and I started to notice day by day how much better my consistency was becoming. I still have so much more to learn and so much skill to gain. Regardless I am proud of how far I have come. I went from “I can’t do it.” To “I can do anything I set my mind to.”
Some of the female welders who we've previously spoken to have mentioned that men have treated them differently or doubted their welding skills. You mentioned in a TikTok that this hasn't happened to you in person, but it has unfortunately happened in social media comments. How do you respond to the unfair stereotypes in those comments, and what advice do you have for other women who may want to take up a career in the trades?
I must start off with saying that the same week I spoke on my TikTok about no one ever treating me any different was the same week that I had my first incident with a male instructor on campus (not my instructor). He asked me why I was welding. He then proceeded to tell me that I should be modeling instead.
This to me was automatically upsetting because I had never had such thing said to me, much less by an instructor. I tried not show my frustration right away but as the conversation kept going, I did become annoyed and ended that conversation. I have since never talked to him again. That’s the same way that I deal with it on TikTok as well.
At first, I used to let the comments ruin my day and really get to me but I have now grown thicker skin to insults and internet trolls. I no longer feed into their negativity. I instead simply delete the comment and move on with my day. I choose to not give them the response that they are looking for. If I had any advice to other women wishing to take up a trade, it would be to never be afraid. Do not be afraid to try new things. Do not be afraid to fail because you will more than likely succeed. Most importantly do not be afraid of this male dominant world called welding. We belong here just as much as anybody else.
Finally, what are your plans for the future? Is there any particular work you would like to do, or any particular field in which you'd like to apply your skills?
I definitely have my heart and mind set on pipe welding. I am hoping that when I finish school, I can find some type of pipe welding job to get me warmed up to the welding world. I do not just want to do pipe though. I want to learn as much as I can about all kinds of processes and metals. I want to gain experience in as many aspects of welding in the field as I possibly can.
The main reason for that is that when I’m experienced enough (years and years from now) I want to become a welding instructor. I really admire my very first welding instructor, Miss Emily. She has really inspired me throughout my entire welding journey, and I see all the great things she does for her student. Therefore, I too want to be a great instructor some day and maybe even get more and more women to join as well. I truly wish to see the number of women welders increase in the near future.