While I recently observed that the older students in construction school are more engaged and motivated than the younger set, the exception that proves the rule just might be the youngest member of the class.
Despite that fact that this 16-year-old woman was born even after that dewy cohort known as millennials—and the fact that her parents still drive her to college everyday—our youngest classmate brings such quiet confidence and approachability to Building Construction Technology that I often turn to her with questions such as “How does this (insert terrifying power tool) work?” and “Uh oh. Now what?”
At almost three times her age, I would hope that I could return the favor by mentoring her about other things. For example, I do have some knowledge about being a woman in a male-dominated workplace that I could share. But so far, she’s the one doling out the good advice.
Take the other day, for example. After five months of feeling like all thumbs when it comes to cutting framing members and whatnot, I finally had a geometric epiphany. I was so excited to have all the math in my head that I ran to the sawhorses in the parking lot and started rapid-fire explaining—before I lost my fragile grasp on the geometry—how to reset the blade to 22.5 degrees to make the soffit turn the corner.
An unfamiliar voice was barking orders and giving direction with hand gestures and urgency. Meanwhile, people were doing what the voice said. Who was this confident character flinging directives with tape measure and speed square?
Oh, it was me! I wanted to shout, “Eureka!”
But instead, I said, “I’m sorry,” followed by “I didn’t mean to be so…bossy.”
Now, if I didn’t like the way I sounded when I took charge, I really hated the way I sounded when I apologized for it. None of the men in the class apologize when they give direction. Hell, I rely on them to do it. I’m sure there’s a lot of complex baggage to unpack on that topic, but my young colleague kept it simple.
“Don’t apologize,” she said. “You’re not being bossy. You’re the boss.”