David Fossa, please share your story with us. Why/how did you get into linework?
I work for Allteck Line Contractors. I am the Manager of Trades Training. I started out in Line work in 1980 helping my father’s small side business on weekends but there was not a lot of work in the line trade, or anywhere for that matter when I got out of high school. So I fumbled around in University for a year, and then joined the armed forces in Canada. Spend some time there and in 1984 I started an apprenticeship as an electrician. Finished that 4 years later, and by then, the economy had turned around. I got on as a Line apprentice and finished that apprenticeship in late 1991. After a lot of years on the road, including stops in the USA for a few years, in 2004, I went to work at the utility here as a Troubleman. In the 9 years I spent at the utility, I managed to get an apprenticeship as a Cable Splicer where I learned a great deal and spent most of my apprenticeship splicing lead cable. After a while, moved into Trades Training where I got my teaching diploma in Adult Education. I left the utility in 2013 and have been in the contractor world since. My time at work is divided into a number of tasks now; developing and delivering technical training, writing procedures for our many clients, delivering our leadership/professionalism training, and now as I near the later years of my career, I work with a number of my colleagues towards shifting the trade away from safety as a forced set of expectations; and try to move it towards safety being a byproduct of acting and conducting oneself as a professional. (If you want more here, check out powerline podcast #2)
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been long and arduous. It has never been an easy one. Much of it self-induced in terms of always taking on some other credentialed skillsets. One would think that being a lineman would be enough, but it never seems to be. So I add to that misery by adding more. Times got tight in the late 90’s and my wife wouldn’t let me go out of town, so I took a job in a lumber yard/hardware store. The wages were pretty small and having a family of 4 and a mortgage to pay, there was never any money left over for anything. Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore so I hit the road again.
I have always been an outsider in things. Yeah, I can mix with the boys and do the job exceptionally well, but I was never part of ‘the group’ so to speak. I always felt like the kid outside the candy store looking through the window. I have reconciled myself with that long ago and actually enjoy that I am not part of the crowd. In fact, I feel it gives me the grounding I need to do what I do now. I am the guy everyone calls when they need answers to the technical aspects of the trade. I even get calls from people needing help to stick-handle some personal/work issues they encounter.
I always wanted to be the person I am now, but when I was young, I didn’t realize that it would take me 35 years to achieve the goal. Many lessons I learned the hard way, even when I didn’t need to. But that has shaped me. Having the technical knowledge isn’t enough. Having experience is also important to gain that street cred. You need whiskers so to speak. You need to aquire the ‘Street Cred’
Please tell us more about yourself and what you like to do.
What do I do? Hmmmm. I do many things. This is a question I am struggling with but here goes. Outside of my daily work, I have a number of hobbies. I have quite the metal shop at home. It includes a full blacksmith shop, 4 welders and a couple of industrial Jet milling and metal lathe machines. I love to play in the shop, though I have little time for it these days. I hope to change that in retirement however. Most of what I make is either artistic in nature, or it serves practical purposes around the farm I live on.
What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to linemen, in the industry or generally?
There are any number of barriers that linemen face but there is one I witness a lot that stands out. In one word – it’s Attitude.
Many have huge Ego’s. They think they are pretty special. There are many whiners and unprofessional linemen out there. Always with their hand out for more. I call them paycheck players. Greedy, high maintenance. Too many Know-it-alls that have a cavalier/cowboy attitude. It is cultural and in my opinion, the main reason for the high number of incidents. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great linemen out there that act and conduct themselves as absolute professionals but there are a lot that are not. This is a great trade and needs to be taken care of and treated with respect. I mean, where else could you make this kind of money, more than most doctors in some areas, with a only grade 10 education?
I have learned to always take the high road. To always try to do the right things. A road in integrity and perseverance. I do my utmost to act and conduct myself as a professional. I steer clear of the political BS that many get bogged down in. I try to work to the highest standards of professionalism and decorum. In short; I try to walk the talk.
As for the organization I work for? They have a deep bench. Probably one of the deepest in the industry. A team of workers at all levels that strive for the best in everyone. The executive believes in having a highly trained work force. They want “average” to be your worst day, not your best day. It is the only organization (and I have worked for many) that actually tries to walk its own talk. It is an organization that has built a strong professional culture and that I am proud to work for.
Lastly, I’d like the guys out there to reflect on one question. Where would you be, what would you be earning if you hadn’t won the lineman lottery?
Treat this trade with respect and look into the mirror. Do you like the person looking back at you?
Thank you for sharing your story, if we have any questions, how do we contact you?
Facebook: David Fossa