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Ryann's Success story

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” – William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

picture of Ryann LeachTruer words are never spoken if you are talking about Ryann Leach.  It would be difficult to guess what Ryann does for a profession by just looking at her. She is small – all of 4’11” and 90 pounds.  But inside that petite package is a powerhouse of a woman who is also a welder.  She previously worked as a manager at a tanning salon, and although she liked her co-workers, she found office work boring - too predictable, and not enough physical movement. One of Ryann’s favorite jobs was a position in research as a lab technician at a company that manufactured epoxies for vehicle manufacturers. She loved the work: it was challenging and fast paced.  It’s also where she was first introduced to welding by seeing the maintenance team weld the epoxy mixers to repair them. She thought, “This looks like not only a challenging job but one I would really enjoy.”

By 2020, Ryann was living in Florida and had given birth to her youngest child.  Returning to work, she found only low paying jobs. Employers would work her for a short period of time, then let her go before she qualified for insurance and other benefits.   Something needed to change – she needed a career, not a job. She chose WTC because friends told her the school was a good place to learn a trade.  She started the Welding program in August 2020.  The biggest challenge she faced was getting  past self-doubt and gaining confidence. It wasn’t easy for her, but she didn’t expect things to be easy.  In fact, her perseverance and tenacity in class earned her the nickname “Pitbull”.

The ten-month program passed quickly.  Every day brought new challenges and learning opportunities for Ryann.  She learned to push through her doubts and came out the other side even stronger. Her small size created obstacles but also provided opportunities for her to expand her critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  Because of her height, she was literally at eye level with some of the equipment she was using.  Ryann had to improvise access to the equipment – safely – or fabricate platforms and stools to reach the equipment.  Moving pieces of steel presented another challenge: other students could easily pick the pieces up and lift or move them around.  She had to figure out safe, efficient ways of moving steel and placing it where it needed to be.  On the other hand, her size was a major asset because she could fit into tight spaces to weld hard to reach areas. 

Ryann is now employed at Fidelity Manufacturing as a Steel Welder in a lead welder role.  Her job duties vary widely and include reading prints to verify tank dimensions and port placements, pressure and vacuum testing of tanks, repairing leaks, welding stainless and carbon steel tanks, and keeping an eye out for any other non-conforming issues she sees during fabrication and repair. Additionally, Ryann is the only welder on the floor at Fidelity who is certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30 Hour Construction course.  As such, she is the point person to whom colleagues report safety concerns and issues. Moving from school to the shop was an easy transition for Ryann because the program at WTC is set up like a work environment. She still had to learn the process and flow of her new workplace, as well as the personalities and work styles of her co-workers, but the learning curve wasn’t too steep thanks to the experiences she had while in school.  

As a female in the welding field, Ryann has faced additional challenges.  She has had to prove that she is capable of doing what other welders are able to do, despite her size and gender. She overcomes these obstacles taking it upon herself to accomplish a task creatively and efficiently.  Ryan says, “If life has taught me one thing, it’s no matter how much you plan or practice there will always be challenges to overcome.” 

For now, Ryann is gaining as much experience as possible and plans to continue to climb the ladder of success in the steel department.  She also plans to eventually open a side business fabricating benches, swings, gazebos, wall art, and similar items.  Ryann would also like to earn her CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) designation from the American Welding Society.  This internationally recognized accreditation can open the door to increasing responsible career opportunities in the aerospace, electronics, mining, oil and gas, and shipbuilding industries.

As for the future, Ryann has stars in her eyes – she would one day love to work at SpaceX. Anyone who meets her would have no doubt that she will make it there one day.

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