Meet Alex Quinn
Alex, aged 21, graduated from Tulsa Welding School – Jacksonville campus in July 2015. Before enrolling in the Professional Welder program in December 2014, Alex had never tried welding.
Thanks for sharing your story Alex; how did you come to a career in welding?
After high school I wasn’t really doing anything, so I decided to join the Army. But that didn’t go too well for me; I got out a year later and came home still aged 19. I was doing restaurant jobs, things like that; my last job was at a smoothie shop. I knew it wasn’t taking me anywhere, then I saw a commercial for TWS. I checked out their website, hit the “Request Information” button, and a few days later, it was a Friday night, I got a phone call from my Admissions Representative. I started that Monday.
Had you considered welding before? Did you take it in high school?
I’d never done it in my entire life, but one of my sergeants in the Army said I’d be good at a trade school. I’m not a book person; I don’t do well with desk jobs, paperwork, things like that; it’s just not me. I also have ten family members who weld, but they’re up north so I don’t see them very often. I didn’t speak to any of them about welding before enrolling, I just jumped right in. They all thought it was great!
What was it about welding that appealed to you?
I was a helicopter mechanic in the Army, so I enjoy hands-on work even though that job wasn’t for me. But I enjoy working hard, and I wanted a good career. The money aspect was another big part of it.
What was your favorite part about the welding program, and why?
Man…that’s so hard to answer because I loved it all. But probably doing high frequency TIG was my favorite. In Phase Nine you can choose between the high frequency TIG and downhill pipe welding, and even though I chose pipe, I ended up doing the TIG welding in my free time. But really I love all welding.
Did you surprise yourself with the passion you found for welding?
I was kind of hesitant when I first started, I was like “what am I getting into?” The first day we had classes for safety and admin stuff, but the second day we started welding. As soon as I started to weld I thought to myself – “This is awesome; this is what I want to do!” I ran with it, and it’s been great so far.
You graduated just a couple of months ago; are you working yet?
Absolutely. A friend’s sister works in HR for General Electric. They needed welders, so during Phase Nine she told me to put my application in and see what happens. I got the job.
What kind of work are you doing?
Aviation welding on speed sensors for jet engines parts. Specifically it’s all high frequency TIG welding.
What did you do with your first paycheck?
I saved it. I’m getting paid every Friday which is very cool. I’ve started paying for my car, and I’ve got to pay my parents back for my insurance. But most of my money is going on my car, and food!
What kind of car did you buy?
A 2015 Ford Focus. I wanted to get a truck but they’re expensive. Plus I don’t really need one because I basically work in an office, I’m not hauling around a big welding machine. I’m looking to get a motorcycle, an Indian Scout, next year.
You’re just two months into your career, where do you hope to be in three years?
I can transfer to any GE location with aviation welding, so that’s pretty cool. But I haven’t given any thought to that yet. I’d like to think that I’ll be a senior welder and doing really well for myself.
And longer term? What would like to do?
I want to stay with GE, the benefits are great. One day I’d like to open a weld shop to do side stuff – that would be sweet. I don’t know how I’d work it out, as it’s a pretty full-time job, I even work weekends.
What would be your dream job?
I have it! Being able to show up in an air conditioned facility, sit in a chair all day and just weld!
You sound like you’re a ‘white collar welder’…if there is such a thing!
Yeah, a little bit! I can show up to work in a collared t-shirt and shorts if I want to. I mean it’s awesome, I get to make parts for jet engines! Most people fly in airplanes at some time or another, so it’s great to have that responsibility. All my welds have to be perfect, but I’m doing really well. Everyone’s pretty happy with my performance so far, but it’s stressful.
Do you feel that TWS helped you on your way to becoming a specialist?
Yes, absolutely. They’ve put me in an excellent place. I wouldn’t be here without TWS. I have zero regrets, I would never do anything else. If I’d not watched that commercial I don’t know what I’d be doing now…probably serving smoothies. Man that was terrible, I hated it. It was the worst job I’ve ever done.
What’s your favorite aspect of your new trade?
My favorite part is when I finish running those beads and lift my hood and see just how much progress I’m making every single day, with every weld. I enjoy knowing how much good experience I’m getting every day, and knowing how much better I’m going to be in a few years. It’s like art, being able to put stuff together that everyone uses – carrying lives from one place to another is awesome to me.
Have you made some lasting connections at the school?
I made quite a few close friends; we’re in touch pretty often. I made good friends with the instructors too, they’re great people. They pushed me to my limit and made me a really good welder from scratch.
What was the best thing the instructors did for you?
I’d never picked up a torch or anything before, but they kept pushing me to do better. “Go run another one, go run another one” they’d say. Eventually I’d look at a weld myself and say “that’s not good enough” and go run another one; they made me my own best critic, and forced me to raise my standards.
What advice would you give to students considering attending TWS?
If you’re going to go, go. Get in there and start running beads. If you put in the time and effort, you won’t regret it. Your life will be way better than what it is now, depending on your own situation of course. But it turned my life a complete 180; I’m on a completely different track now. If you want to live a good life, then welding is a good way to do it.
Did you have any time where you struggled or thought about quitting?
I’m not a quitter, so no I never thought about quitting; but there were definitely some tough times when I would struggle for a while on a certain weld. I would be so crushed at the end of the day when I couldn’t get it, because I like getting things right away. It was so crushing, but I would keep the hood down, keep pushing, keep welding and it turned out beautiful at the end!
What do you do for fun?
I like playing video games, I like spending time with my family and my friends, and playing with my dogs.
If you were a millionaire for a day, what would you do?
I’d support my parents, Robert & Mary, help them get off their feet. They’ve helped me out way too much. I’m definitely grateful for them.
Let’s finish with some quick fire questions?
- Football or baseball? Football.
- Ford or Chevy? Chevy. I only drive the Ford because I bought an 08 Ford Fusion when I was in the Army. When I got it back it died; I had it towed to a Ford dealership so I had to buy a Ford!
- Pizza or wings? Wings.
- Win the lottery or find a perfect job? I already have my perfect job, so lottery!
If you’re a TWS graduate and would like to share your success and be an inspiration to others, please email [email protected] to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview, please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), program and campus name (Tulsa/Jacksonville/Houston).