LORI ROGERS - Mentor Feature
BUILDING FUTURES FOR YOUTH, CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA
Q: When did you realize you had a talent for carpentry?
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties (after working in the Food & Beverage industry for 15 years) that I made the switch to trades. I enrolled in the NSCC Carpentry course and pursued a career in furniture building. Volunteering with Techsploration led me to realize I had a real passion for helping young people (especially young women) make educated decisions regarding their career paths, particularly the trades and types of careers that were overlooked/undervalued in academia during my youth. The positive feedback from students and educators I’ve worked with continues to encourage me.
Q: As a kid, were there any formative experiences that helped to shape your path?
The formative experiences in my youth were the lack of them. Co-op or skilled trades were not available to me in school, and career exploration was never discussed. My career options seemed to boil down to what I could list off the top of my head…. I could choose only from the careers that were right in front of me, and I received no guidance. That’s how the part-time job I had to put myself through university became my first career.
Q: At what point did you realize your chosen career path was for you?
I think the term “career path” is very apt because it’s a lifelong journey that I’m still travelling. I was 33 when I decided to change industries (enrolling in a carpentry course a decade after graduating from university). Wanting a career change was part of it, but deciding on the trades came mostly from becoming a homeowner; I wanted to learn how to properly build all the little projects I was attempting around my house. Even though I felt like I was starting from the bottom in a new industry, the years I spent in tourism were hardly wasted; they helped me develop a range of skills that are very transferable to what I do now. I do, however, admit that I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in high school – which is a big part of why I now enjoy helping young people explore their options.
Q: Was your experience at Techsploration what you expected it to be? How did it impact your career choice or chosen career path?
While I wasn’t a Techsplorer (I joined the program as a Role Model), it has still impacted my career path. I went from working in a woodshop and spending days off volunteering at Techsploration events to working full-time with students, educators, and employers to help students explore their own careers. I think my experience with the organization has been more than I ever expected, and have been lucky to continue collaborating with such an amazing group of people.
Q: Do you have any role models within your career field?
So many of the strong women I meet (both in construction and other industries) are amazing role models. I try to learn what I can, both to help my personal growth and to be able to share with the younger women I mentor. The point is that I didn’t feel I had a professional role model when I was younger; the “if you can see it, you can be it” philosophy was very much missing for me. Now that I know how to properly look, I can see role models everywhere!
Q: What would you say to people – especially women – who might be considering a career in your field?
Consider ALL your options! If you have an interest, pursue it. Learn all that you can. Take every opportunity to try something from the inside to get a better idea of how things work. Young people are constantly being asked to “pick a career”, but how many careers can we actually name off the top of our head? Is knowing the title of a job – or even a descriptive paragraph – going to explain a career? I wish my advice could be the same to all young people, but for some reason, we still need to encourage women to even think about certain industries (like construction). If you’re considering a career in any field, it’s because it interests you; if it interests you, explore it!
Q: What’s one fun fact about you (i.e. your favourite hobby, a significant achievement, etc.)?
When I was 24, I impulsively decided to travel to Europe. I found a job working in a small pub just outside of London. After working for 2 months I had saved enough to travel for the next 3, backpacking around several countries on my own. I wish I could say that travelling is my favourite hobby (and recent vacations to Costa Rica and Belize were beyond amazing), but I think my European adventure feels more like a significant achievement to me now.