Karen Boom: Women in Construction and Trade

Written by Grey

We're featuring Women in Construction and Trade every Wednesday!

This week, we spoke to Karen, an electrician based in Billericay, Essex.

Karen can be found on twitter: @Shes_ElectricUK and on her website: sheselectric.org.uk

Hi Karen, thanks for talking to us! What motivated you to get into your profession?

I needed an Electrician and couldn’t find one I liked!

Well, if you want the job done right, you know what they say! How did you get to where you are now?

I used to work in the City as Global IT Training Manager for a major Law Firm.  I took a career break to raise my children and then got to thinking about what I could do next with my life (Mid Life Crisis at 40)!! I liked the thought of being my boss and having my own Company so I looked into training as a Sparky.

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on?

Converting some very old and dangerous halogen lighting in a Sheltered Housing Scheme.  The residents were over then moon that they could finally see in the corridors and the cost saving for them was massive.

That’s an awesome favourite project – it sounds really rewarding. Similarly, what has been your biggest achievement to date/what are you most proud of?

1) This year I was a finalist in Screwfix Britains Top Tradesperson. Being at the final was such an amazing experience and a real achievement for me.

2) On the back of being more proactive on Social Media, I have been able to mentor several people and I have been told that I am “An Inspiration” by several people, which is great and this is part of the reason I want to be out there not just championing Women in Trades but championing just being in a Trade in general because we are facing a massive skills shortage and need to make Trades more appealing as a career choice for the next generation.

Thinking ahead to the future, what do you hope to achieve?

I would love to play a part in shaping the future of our industry, however I have not worked out how or where I fit into that yet. I feel passionately about the fact that my children are being bought up in a society where they would only ever be guided towards considering a career in “Trades” if they were not academically bright enough to think about anything else.

Do you have an ideal project you want to work on?

When I heard Buckingham Palace needed a rewire, I was covered in goosebumps!! I would have absolutely loved to have got involved in that. I am convinced that in a previous life I was a Princess and lived in a Castle!

As a past life goes, that sounds excellent! In your non-princess-current-life, do you feel there were any setbacks you have had to overcome?

Quite a few.

There is no route for mature entrants into the Electrical Industry other than to fund your own training and complete a course which is widely frowned upon by many. I completely understand this.

There is no way that you can possibly learn everything you need to know in several weeks. So then it’s up to you to go out and get experience and gain deeper knowledge.

My background is training and I was really disheartened that on my course I was taught to pass the exams rather than actually understand what I was supposed to be learning.  So once I had all the relevant bits of paper, I set about finding someone to mentor me because otherwise I couldn’t have gone out and competently worked on my own.

I’ve got a few Women in Construction and Trade specific questions for you!:

Have you got any organisations that are pushing for gender equality in construction/trade (like Women into Construction) that you’d like to recommend?

Stopcocks and also an Australian group called SALT (supporting and linking Tradeswomen) and Hills She Shed

Are there any women who work in construction within your own personal network that inspire you?

A couple…..Hattie Hassan from Stopcocks and also Eleanor Bell, and more recently Christina Marie Valentine.

Do you feel there are many opportunities for women with in your industry?

Absolutely LOADS!!! People are screaming out for Females in Trades and why not? Like I have said, Trades has changed massively over the past few decades and there is no reason why Women cannot do the same job as men.  I have an amazing support network of other Trades (mostly men) who I can call on if needed, we can all work and collaborate together and have different skills and empathies to bring to our jobs.

Is there anything you would like to say to other women who are just entering the industry?

GO FOR IT AND FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!! And don’t be put off by your first hurdles.  This is not a job where everything is going to be perfect every day. There will be challenges and nothing will be constant, however if you stick at it and just show up as your best every day and you feel passionately about making a difference and helping people then you will be on the right track. Reach out and ask for help as there is loads of it out there.

Amazing, thanks Karen! One last question: Three tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island?

Tracks: Pump Up The Jam – TechnotronicNow We Are Free – Hans ZimmerChasing Cars – Snow Patrol

Book: Alice in Wonderland

Luxury: Osteopath

This was Karen (@Shes_ElectricUK), interviewed for our #WiCW series – a compilation of reviews from inspirational women in the Construction and Trades industries. Want to get involved? Have someone to recommend? Get in contact with Grey at grey@shakeandspeare.com

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