While working as a manager in a Stockholm department store Jennie Hallestam made the sudden decision to change career and become a welder – a choice she has never looked back on.
“I really enjoyed my job as a store manager and I liked the people and dressing up in “girlie” clothes each day, but it wasn’t something I had planned as a career,” Jennie Hallestam says. “Then one day I woke up and decided that I wanted to try something new. I wanted to be able to make things with my own hands.”
Hallestam had never tried welding before. She didn’t know anyone who had welded, had never been in a workshop, and had only caught a glimpse of welding on film – in the movie Flashdance! But, she says, “Welding just felt like the right thing for me.”
After getting onto a welding course, Hallestam worked intensively for two and a half years to master her craft. When she finished her course, she got her first job as a welder.
Then a year ago, having obtained both her International Welder (IW) and International Welder Specialist (IWS) diplomas, Hallestam got a job as a welding teacher.
Going against type
Today, aged 30, Hallestam teaches welding to high school students and new immigrants in Stockholm. The students, who are all men, come from as far away as Ghana, Mexico and Syria. They are often surprised to have a young, petite woman show them the ropes and explain the theories behind welding methods.
But despite not fitting the stereotypical image some people have of welders, Hallestam says she’s been well received in this traditionally male profession and adds that she loves her job. “It’s so rewarding to see how quickly the students are learning to weld and communicate in Swedish,” she says.
Some of the immigrants have welded in the past, but most of them are unfamiliar with safety gear. “We always wear gloves, safety clothes and helmets and the first day is often a big adjustment for the new students,” she says. “But when they realise that we take their safety seriously, they are very appreciative.”
Action, adventure and adrenaline
Outside of work, Hallestam likes to weld her own furniture and parts for her motocross hobby. She prefers working with stainless steel, aluminium, and above all, tungsten inert gas (TIG), which she says is more suited to her size than heavier materials. “TIG is lighter and quieter to weld. It takes longer to weld and can be a little fiddly, but I don’t mind that. I like making the extra effort that it requires.”
Hallestam, who describes her lifestyle as “Triple A” for Action, Adventure and Adrenaline, is tough enough to handle any job. “I feel so at home in the workshop carrying a gas tank in one hand and my tools in the other,” she says.
She clears her head at the end of a long workday with motocross. She tried the sport for the first time a year ago and was hooked. Hallestam has more than 50,000 followers on her motocross Instagram page as well as sponsors. “When I decide to do something I give it 110 per cent,” she says with a laugh.
The goal-oriented Swede would like to work abroad one day, preferably as a welder on an oilrig or in another highly challenging environment. “I sleep better at night when I’ve worked hard and learnt something new,” she says.
Jennie’s tips for new welders
Read more about Jennie at http://bikergirl.se/
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