Kiara Casteneda and Paige Morrison, two recent TCC graduates, used their college time to prepare for careers in traditionally male-dominated industries: Automotive Repair and Refinishing and HVAC. Both women say initially they found the prospect of male-filled classes a bit intimidating. And, both agree that discovering they could earn their place in the classroom prepared them to find their place in the business world.
Morrison, who was sometimes the only female in HVAC classes of 20 or more students, cites her age (early 30s) and the support of fellow students as important factors for completing her associate degree and securing a spot as an apprentice technician at AC Supply, where she maintained and repaired HVAC equipment. That training gave her the technical foundation and people skills to advance to a customer relations manager position at TD Industries. Today, Morrison is involved in internal and external sales and, she says, “Just about a little bit of everything. I love it. It’s really dynamic. You get to work with your hands some days, and you get to solve customers’ problems. It’s challenging sometimes, but I like that there’s always something new to learn.”
Morrison credits her HVAC scholarships through the TCC Foundation in both semesters of her final year as being the financial bridge that allowed her to complete her studies.
Similarly, Castaneda attributes her ability to complete her degree both to her work-study program in TCC’s library and receiving Red River Triumph Car Club scholarships through the TCCD Foundation.
Castaneda, 21, earned an associate degree in Automotive Repair and Refinishing, which led to a job as a technician preparing cars for repair and spray painting with Carvana, an online automotive retailer. She chose the field partly because of her admiration for her uncle, who worked as an automotive mechanic and refinisher while she grew up in Mexico.
“When I finally earned my degree, I thought if he could do it, I could too. And, I really like it,” Castaneda said. “It’s very satisfying. You have a vehicle there that you’ve painted. You can see how it looks and how well you did. It’s really a good feeling.”
It also satisfies her creative arts interests, “I’ve always liked to draw and paint. That’s really why I like it so much. When I was in school, I learned as much as I could so I could get better at the skills I need to be a painter. Ultimately, that is what I would really like to do—be a painter.”
Both women agree that their time at TCC developed the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to establish a solid place in male-dominated environments. And they hope that other female students recognize that they have a realistic opportunity to pursue their interests and careers in whatever fields they choose.
Morrison says that she advises young women to “not be intimidated. A lot of women are pretty intimidated by the idea of going into a class or a job that they think is mostly made up of men. They don’t think that they can do it,” she said. “But I say, don’t be scared to step up and try something new. You’ll be surprised that you can do it.”