Gonzo, 23, is from west Texas. He graduated from the seven month Professional Welder program at Tulsa Welding School in October 2017.
Out of high school I played a year of college football, but that didn’t work out. I got a football scholarship, but as a freshman it didn’t pay for the whole thing…long story short I messed up all that. So I went to work in the oil fields, just like everyone else from west Texas. At first I was driving trucks; I was a hotshot driver. I got my Class A CDL and did that for two years. Then a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to come on as his welder helper. I didn’t want to be a driver for the rest of my life; I wanted to learn a trade, and it was more money with the per diem and all.
What made you decide you wanted to go to welding school?
Back home they say “pipeliners are a dime a dozen.” Not to bash anyone, because there’s a lot of money in pipe welding, but I didn’t want to be a one trick pony for the rest of my life. Even though I had plenty of experience with pipe welding downhill and running lo-hi, which is 7018, I wanted to make the most I could possibly make while I’m young. My main focus when I signed up for school was to learn how to do stainless and TIG work. But I learned a bunch of other things, even with the experience I already had.
Did you have any welding experience when you were younger?
My dad was the one who wanted me to get a trade. He didn’t see me as an office kind of guy. He showed me how to work well with my hands. Never welding, but we were always doing something mechanical or something outside. He wanted to buy me a welder back in high school, but I was fixated on college football. I was like “I’ll show you!” But lo and behold I messed all that up! So now he tells me – “You see, if you’d have let me buy you that truck and that welder in the beginning, it would have saved you a lot of time and money!” I guess dads do know best!
What did you enjoy most about Tulsa Welding School?
I definitely enjoyed the instructors. They had a lot of insight, a lot of knowledge. You know that saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? It’s very true in welding. There’s more than one way to do a specific process. At the end of the day you’ll get the same outcome, but there are different techniques to get there. Getting their tips and tricks for even the simplest things was the best thing I got out of school.
Who do you work for?
I’m a TIG welder for Tulsa Tube Bending here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Obviously I passed the weld test, but they’re giving me the opportunity to learn as I work which I’m grateful for. So far so good, I haven’t had any bad X-rays. Some days are a struggle, some days are smooth…but for the most part it’s a great experience. They want productivity and quality. It’s fast-paced, so that alone right there keeps you on your toes. It’s an added stress, but it’s a good stress, as it’s only going to push me to be better.
What are your career plans from here – what is your ultimate career goal?
My current goal is to be able to do both TIG and downhill pipe work. I plan to give myself six months here improving my skills, then I’m going to assess where I’m at. If I’m comfortable with my speed and my ability, then I’ll go home to west Texas where I know all the work is, or I’ll stay here locally and work in the oil fields. I know there are some projects starting up here in the new year.
The best answer I can give is that I’m naturally very competitive. Even if people aren’t competing with me, I like to compete with them…and I like to compete with myself. Welding is one of the only things I’ve found that you can push yourself to get better day in, day out. To get faster, to weld nicer, to get slicker. I’m very passionate about it. You can either choose to get better every day or you can just settle. I’ve always said never regress only progress.
Some people are satisfied with being mediocre or just good enough. That’s not me. I enjoy being the best at whatever it is that I do. A good welder should always have pride in their work and want to get better.
What advice would you give to new students considering TWS?
The best advice I could give is that you solely get out what you put in. I went to school with some guys, not necessarily in my class, but guys I’d see around school, who would complain about their welds, about this about that. They’d complain that they were never going to get it. Get in there and practice. Practice makes permanent. You’re only going to get out what you put into it, so don’t waste the opportunity.
It’s a skilled trade. It’s not something that everyone will just pick up. You have to work for it. Sure some people are more natural welders. I like to think that welding came naturally to me. I pick up on a lot of things quickly, but this in particular I picked up quickly, and became really good, really fast. Some people will struggle, but if you don’t put the work in, you’ve no chance to get better.
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).