Duncan MacDougall |
All Stars of ICR

Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal’s 2019 All Stars of ICR Magazine.

What do you do as an apprentice electrician?

By preplanning and prebuilding, or “prefabbing,” as much as possible in a very controlled environment, with bigger and better tools, and with more access to hardware and support, we can save an uncountable number of hours in fieldwork, minimizing risk and making buildings go up faster.  That is my job. This includes small things – like wiring outlets and switches, precutting wire, and landing wire into residential panels – all the way to building pip racks for an entire building, temporary power stations and even complete traffic intersections. If we thought that it would save time, we would do it.


Why did you choose the architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) field?

My entire life I knew I would need a career that allowed me to do work with my hands.  I couldn’t sit at a desk all day. When I was offered an internship, later a job, with Price, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.  My workplace learning experience is the absolute best thing about my job. There are constant classes to learn about any aspect of being an electrician.  And Price is very good about having the more experienced teach anyone who asks about anything. I recently learned about wiring controls, something I’ve been interested in since I first saw a diagram for them.

What has been your career pathway to your current job?

My career started when I was 15 and was offered an internship with Price, and it started in an unconventional way – by sweeping floors, cleaning, filling the gas in trucks and taking out the trash.  It was not enjoyable in the slightest way for a 15-year-old, but I stuck with it and ended up enjoying my job far more than I ever thought. I took a few classes at Kirkwood while I was in high school, mainly because I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities for learning that I could get.  And Kirkwood has some of the best ACE programs around, is very affordable and is well-respected.

What are some of the challenges you experience on the job?

There are more challenges than I can count, and that’s an aspect of my job I really like.  You wake up before dawn, go to work eight to 10 hours a day, five to six days a week, and every hour you face a new problem.  Where is my pipe going to go? How am I going to fit everything I need into this tiny space? Why is this plumber in my way? And it’s more than mental challenges.  There is an amazing amount of physical challenges too: the long hours, heavy lifting, standing/walking all day long, etc. But the worst is the weather. I’ve gone to work in -20 weather, in 100+ weather, in rain, snow and storms.  But those challenges have made me who I am, and I cannot imagine my job without them.

What does it take to be successful in your line of work?

As for help and work hard. And remember: Your attitude matters.  I had a 110-pound vegetarian woman outwork a 220-pound guy who was built like a linebacker because she had a better attitude.  Most of the time there will be on-the-job training, which means you’ll be paid to struggle through hard and annoying work. If you don’t have an attitude that allows you to fail, you will not learn from the inevitable failures.

If someone isn’t sure if the ACE sector is the right fit, what should they do to check it out?

Do internships.  Talk to people in the trade.  Ask all the questions you can think of.  Most people love to talk about what they do and will gladly offer advice.

To see the original article in the 2019 All Stars of ICR magazine, visit: http://bit.ly/2019AllStars_Duncan.

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