Our Industry Person of the Week is Michelle Villalobos. Michelle is a Pipe Welder, the owner of The Industrious Co. LLC, and the founder of Weld Like A Girl.
Q: How did you get started working in your field?
Michelle: After leaving a job at Citicorp/Citibank in the summer of 1999, I applied for a seasonal maintenance position at Smithville Lake. Ken was the name of the man interviewing me; to this day, my story always starts with him. Because he took a chance on me, I was introduced to welding. Welding was not part of my job; however, two other guys were welding deer stands towards the end of the summer season. Curious, I asked what they were doing, and a few days later, I was looking for welding schools. I happened to be looking through this penny saver newspaper where I saw an ad for Missouri Welding Institute. I called them to schedule a tour; the rest was history. I will say I had no plans of becoming a welder. When I started school, I was going to learn for fun; my curiosity led me to a career path that I had never imagined for myself. I fell in love with the industry.
Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Michelle: I have loved different parts at different times throughout my career. When I first started, it was seeing my progress, being around construction, and being outside. Early on, I jumped into quality control. I was working at a new construction power plant where I started asking the QC manager about his job; I asked so much that he told me they needed help in their department, and he could bring me on if I could pass their written and practical test. I loved being on the other side of the fence, seeing how a job is put together, and the process of keeping everything on schedule.
After that job, I didn’t pursue a quality control job for several years; I still had a lot to learn. My last job as an employee was for a valve modification shop for gas and oil. I started as a welder and then moved into a quality control manager position. I was involved in getting us ISO certified, and that was a whole other level of love. I am most proud of leaping to start my business. I have been dipping my toes for seven years, and now that my daughter is graduated from high school, I am all in. I’ve spent those years being a student, and now I am ready to take what I have learned and see how far I can grow. My vision of the future keeps me hopeful and excited.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Michelle: Learn everything you can, and ask a lot of questions! Save your money and prepare for your opportunities. You have no idea where a skilled trade will land you. There is always money to be made if you know how to build.
Q: Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Michelle: So far in my business, I have done a lot of small jobs, and one large job for me was on a hemp extraction plant. The company that hired me was new to the business, so I was there for all the trial and error and saw them through the start-up. It was neat to learn about the process, and I also learned a lot.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Michelle: When I started my business in 2014, I had classes for hobbyists. We did make-and-take projects, and I enjoyed seeing people going from being intimidated to wearing a big smile because they were so proud that they worked through the fear and built a functional piece of furniture. We had a date night, classes for homeschoolers, an all-girls class that I called “Weld Like a Girl,” and had tee-shirts made that said, “weld Like a Girl” with a Rosie The Riveter/Wonder Woman on the front. I also gave one-on-one classes. I have teamed up with a local welding school and will bring the welding classes back. We are working out the details and hope to startup this August. In the future, I hope to get enough work to employ five people full-time and give a portion of my proceeds to my school so people can go for free. It will be a basic intro to welding, but I hope to inspire others to join the blue-collar world.
I know I want to do all prefab work from now on. I want to be in a shop. I have a vision for the look and feel. I want to attract people to the trades, and I think shop environments have to change. My idea is very non-traditional.
Connect with Michelle and The Industrious Co. on Instagram: theindustrious_co, Facebook: @theindustriousco, and @weldlikeagirl on Instagram and Facebook.
THANK YOU, MICHELLE! WE LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING UP WITH YOU THROUGH THE #PUMPTALK COMMUNITY!
KNOW AN AMAZING PERSON WHO IS MAKING VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS WITHIN INDUSTRY? NOMINATE THEM TO BE AN “INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE WEEK”!