I got to go for coffee with Ashley Langan and give the afternoon over to talk about work.
Not just settings and what to do next. We got to sit down and talk about the deeper, ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ the connections and drive that I’m personally finding so interesting. This interview and time spent working with Ashley Langan has really sparked something in me. It’s been the beginning of a much bigger idea for me. One that involves more mentoring.
Let’s jump right in…
Every year the company I work for takes on a few students who have finished their first level of schooling in a trade to gain some hours and generally have a mutually beneficial – if short – relationship.
This year my crew was assigned Ashley Langan.
She is not any one persons apprentice, but the whole crews. It’s been great in the past with other students. I honestly think it’s the best way to pick up everybody’s best advise, traits and teaching style.
My foreman does, however, like to keep her with the same journeyman for each whole work ‘set’ (4-5 days)
She has been with our crew about 2 months now and I’ve worked 2 sets as her mentor.
It’s a new challenge. I loved it. And it’s making me want more.
Although we have very different backgrounds, somehow working together has clicked.
At 17 She may be young but, man, look out. She is so rooted and clear about who she is and what she’s going after right now, I love being around and talking about that kind of fire. I can’t wait for you to read this!
So first a little back story,
Your mum is a Heavy Duty Mechanic and I have previously worked with her for about 6 years and from her I know that you two are pretty incredible. You and your mum are living completely off the grid…
…we have a generator if we need.
Lisa Harvey –
(Laughing) …completely off the grid, cattle ranching with tones of animals. How big is your place?
A- 500 acres (+ another 250 acres) with about 300 animals all together. Except in calving or kidding season when that number can potentially double.
L- That’s a pretty amazing upbringing. Do you even know how cool that is? There are people out there trying to go off grid?
A- It’s a unique lifestyle. Our daily stresses are just not fathomable to some people. We skip meals, lose sleep- other than having children – most people don’t know that ranching/off grid lifestyle where everything else comes before yourself.
L- How, do you think, that lifestyle has helped take you into welding?
A- Maturity. It’s given me a sense of realism. With animals you sometimes have to put your feelings aside and do what’s best for them; it’s given me a respect for life that can’t be taught with words it has to be experienced.
I stayed in town during my C Level/Foundations Welding program and started feeling depressed. Not being able to see the stars and be able to sleep made me anxious and feel isolated. Even though I felt like I was in a fishbowl with all these people around, I felt so incredibly isolated. Everything is paved and there’s just no connection to the earth…I did talk to a counsellor during that time and even though the counsellor didn’t understand where I was coming from – at all – I was able to see the experience differently. It made me want to do well in my program because I was sacrificing so much.
L- Wow. Ok first, good job seeking help – that is very courageous, even if it wasn’t in itself helpful, something did shift and come from it. That takes so much courage. Are you liking welding? Can you see it as something you want more of?
A- Welding is definitely the career I want. I don’t care how long it takes to get my Red Seal. I want lots of experience and I want to impress with it. Not so much the fabricating side, math doesn’t click with me yet. So that’s not something I want to get into yet. My plan/goal is to get an apprenticeship and get my Red Seal certification right away, all while putting money into my own welding truck. I don’t care what people think of me personally, I want them to judge my skill.
L- You just said so well one of my favourite aspects of welding: with bend tests, ultrasound etc. all the methods of looking inside welds, you can’t hide anything. Everybody’s work speaks for itself.
Also your word ‘yet’ was so important there. Just the language you chose. You could have said ‘I can’t do math’ by choosing to say ‘yet’ you haven’t ruled it out or limited yourself but are clear with what you are focusing on right now.
A- Yeah. I value honesty so much. I’ve been called/ I call it “Painfully honest” I feel like it’s why I don’t have too many close friends. I feel so many people are just looking for someone to boost them up.
L- Okay. I’ll have to remember that. I’m not sure you and I have gone that deep yet. I mean, I have coached you a bit but we’ll have to see if “painfully honest” comes up. Where does that trait in you come from?
A- It comes from my mum. It was always just the two of us and she never hid anything from me. Some circumstances have imprinted in me and made me want to make good long term decisions for myself. she is a powerful role model for me always working, And it’s helped me figure out my main goal (a welding career?) A successful welding career as well as my agricultural lifestyle. I wish to be as self-sufficient as possible, gardening, hunting, trapping, raising our livestock, putting in a hydro-system, etc.
L- You shared a quote with me one day while we were working and I wrote it in soapstone on the shovel door we were working on, because I love it. can you explain it a bit? I feel like it applies to so much but specifically starting out welding that I think someone reading this will really need to hear.
A- “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast”
L- Do you know who originally said it? Where did you hear it?
A- It was originally said in the movie ‘Shooter’. Slow everything down, take your time and don’t rush. It’s faster to take the time to do it right than speed through it, mess up, get confused and frustrated and have to re-do it.
4 best traits from Ashley Langan:
L- After working with you there are a few traits or things I see coming through I like: I’ve been writing them down in between taking notes here.
L- #1 – I like that you are not afraid to ask questions.
A- Sometimes I feel bad, thinking “I should know this” or I feel like I should and after wracking my brain, I think “No, this isn’t helping. I’ll just ask.”
L- #2 – You have the ability to keep up with a 12 hour day. Does that come from the ranching lifestyle?
A- Yes and no, with ranching you stay up however long it takes so I could say that that has helped in dealing with 12 hour shifts. But mainly it’s just the mindset of pushing through the first couple days and then I’m pretty used to it. My first 12 hour day was hard. I was dozing off at 4:30 break and was thinking, “my god, I’m not gonna make it!” But then I’m like, ok, now I know 4:30 the crash is going to happen, so that’s how I eat – to make it through.
L- #3 – I’ve noticed you anticipating, thinking about the next step in a job because I’ve seen you then starting that next step. Where did that come from?
A- That one came from our lifestyle, we have to anticipate and prepare for the next season. There are all these little chances. Yeah, paying attention to the people I’m around – I learned by always watching my mum and I think I pick it up that way. I watch people.
L- While we were working together one of our big lifts going on. Swapping and moving 2 shovel buckets using a Mamoet Crane, and although we weren’t directly involved in the lift crew, our job was close enough that we we needed to stop and pay attention. I remember I stopped our welding to feel safer and to kind of narrate what was happening and answer your questions. Was that helpful?
A- Yes. Because just the other day when we were using a zoom boom to change bottles from our bottle rack, and I was signalling you and another welder came to help but started signalling also, I knew ‘only 1 person signals’ and knew to sort that out before anything else happened.
L- Oh my gosh! That’s awesome. I think people watching is important too. Thinking, ‘what is it about that person that makes them so good?’ And then trying to take on that trait.- I knew that lift day was going to be a bit boring but if just that one lesson about 1 signaller came of it, then that was a huge win!
L- #4 – You are confident in your ability.
A- I think my confidence comes from asking ‘why’ so much and
“You learn stuff from doing it wrong, not from doing it right”. As well as the fact that I keep in mind that if I mess up, as humans often do, and it slips past me or I fail to notice it, I hope someone would come up to me and discuss it with me. Not in a condescending way of course.
When I was I school I would write my settings down because I’m not good at remembering numbers. I’d think “am I going to remember this?” So now I have this little journal that’s like my little ‘bible’ that’s specific to me.
We can count how many lessons with each burn/scar. I’m very proud of my scars.
L- Me too. Just like my tattoos, I feel my welding scars document or mark a time in my life I’m proud of. But, sometimes I have struggled with how more visible ones (my face) have made me feel.
A- The ones that matter won’t judge you on looks. They’ll judge you on your work, your skills and your ability – what you bring to the table.
L- I honestly hope so! I haven’t worked, directly with another female welder in over 8 years (wow) and I like working with other women in the larger mechanical/electrical shop – I have consciously tried to keep my relationship with your mum and hearing about you through her kind of in the back of my mind
– Ha! the first day I met you I was so gobsmacked because your mum always called you “little Ashley” and I had seen you walk across the mine yard that morning so confidently – I knew right away you were a welder! – that her description of you like that just didn’t fit this self aware, ‘I’m here to kick some ass’, woman I was shaking hands with.
A- ….we’re stronger together.
L- Totally agree. A good diverse mix is so good.
A- Like fingers on a hand. Each finger is different. None do the same job but they are so strong together.
L- 🙂 yup.
Okay so we are almost an hour into our conversation – I’m loving it – but I haven’t even asked you the predictable question ‘How you got into welding?’ yet.
A- My mum signed me up on a whim for a girls only welding camp at TRU in 2017. I had never even struck an arc. Did the intro and the instructor told my mum, “I think she’s going to do really well in this class”. I watched a bunch of videos the night before. I can’t remember if it was Lincoln or Miller, probably both.
The course was 1 week, 5 days.
L- What did it cover?
- Day 1- SMAW ‘stick’ welding. I was just excited.
- Day 2- was supposed to be GMAW ‘wire’ welding but I stayed on stick until I felt comfortable.
- Day 3- GMAW ‘wire’. I was drawing pictures with wire on 6” x 6” 1/2” plate and was like “gimme another one”
- Day 4- Projects as well. I made a welcome sign out of horseshoes.
- Day 5- Projects. The instructor had a bunch of used horseshoes. I made a boot holder… it’s an eye sore – but I’m still proud of it. I made a stool that’s supposed to go over a campfire but I use it as my goat milking stool. It’s perfect. I was just googling like mad to find more things to make.
When I got home I started looking into welding programs.
“That week changed my life.”Ashley Langan
L- So, I know from your mum that your older sister is a farrier, are more horseshoes in your future?
A- Maybe. She’s my big sister and I think she’s amazing, but I consciously chose to be different and because I’m not really into horses, I don’t want to ‘follow in her footsteps’ Yeah, there will probably be more but not right now. I don’t have time.
L- You are very artistic. Your coffee mug, your toolbox and of course your helmet all have hand drawn sayings on them. The one on your helmet is the “When this helmet drops the bullshit stops” quote. My work helmet says “Run your welder not your mouth” and it’s more of a reminder to myself to get to work than a comment directed at anybody else. What does your saying mean to you?
A- It’s about the bullshit in my head. Like before my CWB (all position bend) tests – I was so terrified, stuck in my own head. Scared. Anxious. The (tester) repeated unhelpful sats “only 2 in 10 pass their first try” so I have little reminders to not psych myself out.
“It’s just you and the puddle just having a little conversation” or sometimes I think a SMAW stick is just “your own little wand, you can make do what you want.”
L- Haha awesome! Have you experienced ‘being in the zone’ or ‘bliss’ while welding yet, where time just stops or fillies by …? Your nodding. What is it like for you? Blank?
A -Experienced it. Yes. No, not blank. I’m talking to myself. Nothing else matters. I don’t notice the music or that my legs are sore (from how I’m sitting) until I get up. I feel like I learned that from art. Just so focused on what’s happening that nothing else matters.
I like and know that feeling but This is weird for me with welding because I usually hate trying new things,
L- Wait, what!? Except you are in the middle of trying this massive new thing…?
A- Yeah. I’m trying to push myself in my drawing too. I usually draw in just black and white;shades and want to get into more colour. (I just have to think) Personality step aside.
L- You are reminding me of something an artist said to me. Hold on this will relate to your art. She took me to Granville island we bought some watercolour supplies, got some sushi and sat by the water to mess around with painting. I was not into the sushi and she just said, “How are you ever going to be an artist if you’re not going to try new things?”
A- I said I don’t like fabricating, but my final project at school was a goat feeder. It holds 2, 60LB round bales. I didn’t have any itch to hop right into finicky fabricating, but when I finished my schooling 3 weeks in advance and my instructor had some material, I created a blueprint of a goat feeder I wished to make. It was definitely something new as I hadn’t designed something to specific dimensions required to hold a certain amount of weight or had to consider efficient designing methods.
L- I thought you said you didn’t like fabricating?
A- I liked my instructor and wanted to spend as much time as he would let me sucking up everything I could learn from him. He let me use some material that was leftover at the school so I based the design partly on what I had.
L- Wow. would you be interested in sharing your design on here?
A- Yeah. There are some things I would change but I had to draw it out to figure out the math angles.
Check out Ashley’s plans for a goat feeder below!
L- That would be so awesome to share, thank you! Yeah, math makes more sense to me when I have a reason for figuring out an angle or a dimension.
L- Okay, I like to ask a last question, it has to be in person and the answers are best if you don’t have time to prepare,
A- Okayyyy (looking a little confused/nervous)
L- If you could be any one of your tools, which would you be and why?
A- Hmm that’s hard. Even though I touch them all the time its hard to remember each thing. Um, my favourite tool is a long thin piece of super hard Stellite I got from my instructor. I think he got from a sawfiler. It’s awesome for cleaning welds.
I think I would be a striker. Simple. Useful. And my mum calls me ‘sparky’ sometimes. And it’s a very handy tool for killing boredom for myself.
L- Ha ha Good choice! I think that really suits you! Seemingly quiet, but a little fiery in there.
I am excited for someone who needs this to read about your amazing personality and traits. I am also so interested to see how you feel about this conversation a couple years into your career. How interesting would it be to revisit this?