MACON, Ga. — We've all heard the saying, 'Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.'
That's certainly the case for professional welder Carol McKinley.
"It takes your mind off of everything else. I mean you're concentrating on that bead, that weld, that stringer, that piece that you're working on," she said.
Pursuing a welding career didn't come easy, especially as a young woman back in 1974.
"I went over to the college, Carroll Tech was the name of it then, the guy was showing me around. He showed me all the nursing and accounting, all the girl type stuff, you know, and I'm like, 'I'm not interested in that, what else do you have?'" she said.
McKinley made her way to the trade skills department and met Mr. Owens, who introduced her to the world of welding.
"He said, 'Do you want to try it?' and I was like, 'Yeah,' so I did the same thing. I ran the bead too, and he was like, 'You've got the knack, if you like this you need to do this,'" she said.
She finished the two year course in six months, becoming a certified welder.
"I started out welding water tanks, flat bottoms and then tower tanks. The largest tower tank was 165 foot, and we were fearless back then," McKinley said.
Despite her experience, landing a job was always an obstacle.
"Back then,the small companies would not even talk to me. 'Oh we don't have a bathroom' or 'we don't need anybody,' but then the guy I'd walk in with, they'd hire him. If I did not do as well as them, if not better, then they'd hire a guy in a heartbeat," she said.
Her tenacious attitude landed her jobs at plants in Texas, Florida, North and South Carolina, and all over Georgia.
"Once they got to see that I could actually work and weld, you know I stayed on the job, I didn't take breaks, I didn't go out for a smoke, I didn't come in late, I didn't go home early. I was there and I wanted to do it and I wanted to work," she said.
Forty years later, she credits her resilient attitude to her successful career and encourages other women in trade jobs to keep reaching for their dreams.
"I knew I could do it, if they just let me, I could do it. You can't let them discourage you. If this is what you want, you just got to keep doing it. You've got to keep plugging along," she said.
McKinley is originally from Newnan, Georgia, but has lived in Macon for the last 20 years.
She also taught welding at Central Georgia Technical College for four years. Now she works at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro.