manufacturing

Manufacturing

This Former Housekeeper Knows How To Switch Gears

Posted on
February 23rd, 2021
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Electrical and electronics engineering technician Tracy Wilson with a wrench
Electrical and electronics engineering technician Tracy Wilson with a large wrench
'There was something about the electronics lab that grabbed my attention,' says Tracy Wilson. (Credit: Courtesy Tracy Wilson)
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Tracy Ann Wilson didn't always know she wanted to work in the trades.

She was self-employed as a housekeeper, but money was tight. She knew it was time for a change.

She investigated training opportunities and was drawn to the electronics lab. Before she knew it, she was to earning an associate degree in specialized technology. Her determination not only helped her earn the degree, but also a work ethic scholarship from the Mike Rowe Foundation.

She took a job as an instrumentation technician at Volvo Mack Trucks. She was laid off because of COVID-19 in August, but she didn't let that slow her down. In fact, she's already got a new electronics technician job lined up!

Why did you get into this line of work? And did you always want to do this?

I’ve always loved working with my hands. I grew up playing around with tools and electronics in my dad’s workshop as a kid. I never considered a career in electronics engineering because I’d made my mind up when I was fairly young that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom like my mom was. I did become a stay-at-home mom, but a divorce followed 10 years later, and I found myself living as a single mother to two little boys. Armed with a good work ethic and a high school diploma, I found a job cleaning for a residential company. Ends weren’t meeting, so I started my own cleaning business and unfortunately got involved in an unhealthy relationship. It wasn’t until after leaving that situation that I decided I had to make a change so I could fully support my boys and myself. That change involved going to school. 

I contacted YTI Career Institute after seeing a commercial on TV. My plan was to become an electrician since that course was only nine months long, but there was something about the electronics lab that grabbed my attention, and I ended up signing up for classes that same day.

What does a typical day look like? 

A typical day starts at 7:30 a.m. At 7:40 a.m. we have a brief meeting, and we all get our assignments for the day. Some days, I keep working on a previously started project, or I start on something else more time-sensitive. It’s a great feeling knowing I’m not doing the same thing every day and it varies in intensity. One day, I might be making a harness, the next I could be under the hood of a truck or in a test cell troubleshooting. All the fun ends at 3:30 p.m.!

What do you like most about your job? And least?

Variety is what I like most. I find it's the perfect ratio of playing with wires and turning wrenches. I honestly don’t have a least favorite part. The way I see it, I’m getting paid to do what I love, and that right there is a huge win!

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

Probably that we’re just nerds who couldn’t make it as electrical engineers, so we "settled" for becoming techs. Of course, that’s untrue. We just have a different skillset that fills a specific niche and bridges a gap between mechanics and engineers.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

I wish I knew how much fun I could have AND get paid for it! Had I known that, I would have started much sooner. Everything in it’s time though.

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

You need to have an adaptive personality. Absolutely, be yourself, but you’ve got to be able to adapt to multiple, diverse personalities. You’re almost always working with a team of engineers or fellow techs, and you need to be able to get the job done without the distractions drama brings. Be cool, be yourself, and be kind by giving your coworkers room to have a bad day.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I’d most likely be a police officer, or I’d be well into my career in the Navy. Both are things I’ve wanted to do since I was 5 years old, but just never pursued.

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

I see myself with five to 10 years more experience in my field, enjoying a debt-free life in my little house, with an oversized three-car garage. One bay for my voodoo blue Toyota Tundra, the next with my two- and four-wheel toys, and the last bay will be my workshop.  I have big dreams, and a career in electronics is the vehicle that will take me there!

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When he’s not fixing engines, you can find Austin Kolas outdoors — no matter the season. Whether he’s hunting, fishing or transforming his 1986 Ford Ranger into a drag car, he’s either working on a
A young man stands in his driveway, leaned up against his turquoise Ford Ranger truck.
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Surveyor with bridge and crane in background
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