We had a chance to meet up with an impressive group of women working in manufacturing at Boeing’s Everett facility recently and are excited to share their stories. TJ Campbell is one of those women. We wanted to hear more about her experience and what she would tell high school girls about their options for a career in manufacturing. TJ brings it home in one great sentence: Women in manufacturing have no limits. Read on!
Welcome, TJ! Can you tell us about your current job and what you do every day?
I work on the 777 in the Service Ready Wing here at The Boeing Company. My job requires that I read blueprints, drawings, or IPs (Installation Plans), which give me all the directions I need to complete my tasks for the day. Those tasks generally include taking wire bundles, wiring them completely through the wings for the 777. In that job, I will also clamp down the wires. I may do field tying on the wires. Occasionally I may have to splice the wire. But, predominantly, what I do is I take the wire bundle from one end all the way out to the far end of the wing, making sure all the necessary electronics are in place.
What do you like about working at Boeing?
What I’m really, really pleased with about working here at Boeing is that, when I came in to be trained to do my job, there was no “flying by the seat of your pants” or “You’re gonna just figure it out.” Someone was there with me every step of the way – from the foundational training at the very base level all the way out to the on-the-floor, hands-touching-everything training. There was someone with me every step of the way. Having that kind of support made me feel valued. It didn’t make me feel like I was just any other person, like I was easily replaceable. Boeing was as involved with me as I was with them. Whatever I’m willing to put in, they’re willing to give back. I’m able to go as far forwards, upwards, and outwards as I’d like. There’s room for growth and opportunity everywhere.
What are the key skills required to succeed in an entry-level manufacturing job at Boeing?
Having a familiarity with precision instruments and hand tools coming into Boeing made it a lot more comfortable to continue learning Boeing’s styles, methods, and devices (Note: these skills are all key parts of the Core Plus Aerospace curriculum). It’s not necessary that potential hires have these skills, but it does give them a base upon which to build and grow.
Also, time management and communication are key. The moment that you see that there’s something that’s going to cause delay to a time-sensitive project, you need to let someone know right away. That way, they can either send you help or see if they can get the deadline moved out for you. But knowing how to manage the time that you do have is going to be essential to productivity and to your success.
What is your advice to young women who may not have considered a career in manufacturing?
Experience everything. Test it out. Don’t let someone tell you, “No it’s not something you’d like.” Go and find out for yourself. Try everything. If you don’t like it – fine. Try something new. But don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it just because you’re a girl. You can do anything – frankly, you can do everything – because you’re a girl.
More specifically, for high school girls open to a career in manufacturing, I would start with a guidance counselor or an industry partner like Boeing. There are programs in high school (such as Core Plus Aerospace) that could easily get you started in the field. But you do have to ask for the help to look for them. You have to just ask a couple of questions, and someone will be there to steer you on the right path – where to go, where to find the resources, what to do next.
Why is it important for women to pursue careers in manufacturing?
I believe it’s extremely important because we’re finally in a place and position where no one is saying that a woman can’t do it. The things you were able to do – but no one really wanted you to do – are no longer an issue or an obstacle. There are people more than happy to help you move into those nontraditional fields to make it your own and grow, build, and develop. Women in manufacturing have no limits right now. You’re able to do, be, and create whatever you need or want for yourself and for those coming behind you. It’s just amazing how far you can go right now in manufacturing.