Tales of the Trades shares just some of the millions of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate and maintain the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.
Meet Lillian Anderson. Lillian is a freshman at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, MN and one of four recipients of our inaugural Rock the Trades Scholarship grant. As of 2022, she is working towards a degree in electrical construction to later become an electrician. With a passion for problem-solving and commitment to meaningful positive impact, Lillian hopes to create a career where she can help make renewable energy options more accessible to lower income communities.
What led you to pursue a career in the trades, and specifically your chosen industry?
I don’t have any family directly in the trades, but my dad’s an architect and my mom’s an office manager for a construction firm. I did a lot of behind the scenes stuff for theater in high school, and I got really interested in the lighting part of that, so I worked with our lighting designer a lot. One thing led to another, then I was meeting new people in the electrical field and thought it sounded fun!
What excites you the most about the trade you’re pursuing?
I’m still in school so I haven’t experienced a lot of it so far, but I think the best part for me about electrical is how hands-on it is. I love solving puzzles and I love problem solving. I change my mind a lot, so the only constant for me is that I can’t just be sitting down doing the same thing every day. I really wanted to pursue something where I would be adapting to circumstances to try and figure things out as I go along.
What is the most rewarding part of learning your trade?
I did a lot of advanced physics in high school, and part of that was learning the basics of electricity. I think one of the most satisfying things that I’ve been doing now in school is being able to understand it in a real world scenario. It’s so cool to put the applications to the theory with my hands. It’s very, very interesting and so satisfying to put the little puzzle pieces of prior knowledge together and see it all come to life.
What are the most challenging parts of getting started in your trade?
Something I’ve already found challenging is the education I’ve been doing so far is very geared towards people who have a lot of experience in the field already. They’re trying to make that experience official in something like a degree. For me, it’s a lot of trying to play catch up. I think that’s a little difficult and can be discouraging when everyone else is 10 steps ahead of you and you’re trying to learn the basics.
What does it take to be successful at what you do?
I would say being able to adapt to situations and also being able to acknowledge that you don’t know what’s going on. I feel like if you can’t do either of those, you’re just kind of stuck where you are and you won’t learn or get better in the field or grow. If you can adapt to a situation, then you can grow from the situation.
What are your thoughts on the state of the trades right now industry-wise?
My perspective is limited just because I just got interested in the field early last year, but I’ve seen a lot of new programs pop up trying to get more and more people interested in the trades. My school specifically is a trade school focusing on getting more diversity into the trades, so I’ve seen that happening there, and I think that’s really important.
Any advice for those thinking about taking up an industrial trade?
I’d say to apply for a lot of scholarships, because there’s a surprising amount of trades scholarships out there - like Rock the Trades! Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important to know when you’re not the most experienced person in the room. I have a lot of classmates who come in with the attitude that because they’ve had some experience in the past, they know exactly what’s going on and that they’re going to be the best. Unfortunately, they end up not doing super well, because they refuse to acknowledge that they might be wrong, or that they might have learned something in a way that isn’t like up to code now. The stubbornness holds them back. Be open to learning new things, especially if you’re new in the field, because if the code updates every three years, you really can’t afford to be stuck in one mindset and refusing to grow. That will get you in trouble eventually because you could mess something up.
What would you like to accomplish or your career to look like? your favorite way to spend your free time?
I’ve always been really interested in renewable energy, and I think that as the weather gets more unpredictable and power outages become more common, things like solar batteries in homes are going to be a lot more prevalent. At the moment as it is, they’re very expensive, which is not very helpful for the people most affected by power outages, like those with life-saving medical devices in their home that need to be constantly plugged into power. They would need a backup plan if their power goes out, because batteries for that only last so long - and who knows how long it is before the power comes back on. I’d like to figure out how to make that more accessible to the people who may not be able to afford it as it is right now.
Overall, I’d like to be thought of as someone who’s fun to work with. There’s always a lot of people that are nightmares to work with, and no one wants to work with them. I just want to be fun to be around and still get stuff done, to be a good worker and give back to the community, too.
Last but not least: what’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
I’m very passionate about environmentalism, and there is a group that I volunteer with frequently that works on preservation along the Mississippi River. We plant native species and remove invasive ones, pick up litter, and restore the parks in Minneapolis. It’s very fulfilling, so I do that in my free time a lot.
Our thanks to Lillian for making time to share her story.
Learn more about our Rock the Trades workforce development initiative and our Scholarship.