Powerlineman Profile: Dyana Reid, "Lilladyonawire"
Tell us about yourself. Can you briefly walk us through your story? - How you started & how you got to where you are today. (You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like)
Linework wasn’t something I ever aspired to do but more of something I fell into. I mean, whoever becomes what they wanted to be when they were 8 years old? I wanted to be a children’s story book writer… then a marine biologist… then an architectural engineer. But at some point, I blinked and found my feet stuck into a pole or blowing around in the bucket with freezing rain in my face … tempered equally with rewarding work that has great views, some amazing people and a better than average paycheque (that’s how we spell paycheque in Canada hahaha). I won’t put you to sleep with too much detail… so I’ll fast forward through my series of life tragedies, jobs, electrical background, etc.; instead, I’ll just say that I had been offered a job as a meter reader with the local power company and thought that it would be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and explore the career I was already in with… electricity. Fast forward again… six years later, I am still a meter reader. Smart meters are coming on the scene and that could be the end of my job. Then, the company that I am with opened up an internal competition. It involved an aptitude test and a practical test where you have to install some things, lift some things, climb some things. Thirty some people tried out but only eight people were picked and I got to be one of the fortunate eight. I’ll never forget the day I got that call… I was on vacation… it was 11am… I was BBQing a steak and sipping on a lime flavoured Coldstream - just living my best life… until it got unknowingly better. That was a call that completely changed the trajectory of my life. After that, I moved four hours away from my home to get on-the-job training for almost a year. Most weekends I’d drive back home to see my husband but sometimes I’d stay up there for weeks at a time. After that, I got to go back to my home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where I currently am. Although, I may have to move somewhere else in September.
Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for other women (or men), particularly those young folk who are just starting their journey?
Smooth road? Well, it had some potholes; I would call it an interesting road. To travel the road of a lineman, you have to have really good shocks. It’s like learning a new language. I always thought “dead ends” were a type of street, “cans” were something that contained soup or beer and “d-racks” were a bra size. I had much to learn, I’m still learning… and I’m fairly certain that will never stop. There’s always something you don’t know, no matter how old you are or how much experience you have. I’ve had my share of physical and mental struggles with this trade. Physically, it can be demanding. Flexibility and core strength is definitely an asset. I remember waking up with “trigger finger” every morning for months; some days you can be sore, but you get stronger. At one time, I did CrossFit … I found linework harder … maybe because when you're working out you can stop whenever … but when you’re in the middle of a job, you have got to finish that job.
Mentally… I found this aspect harder. I have inner struggles of not being good enough, lacking confidence and feeling like I don’t deserve to be here… so I have to remind myself that they should make the competition harder if that’s true. I also wonder if I was the one woman picked out of the eight guys because some demographic box needed to be checked and that got someone a pat on the back. I try to push those things to the back of my mind and realize that I’m here; I’m not going anywhere and I’m going to do the best I can do. I’ve learned to accept that not everyone will be happy that I’m here. This career and the mental struggles that come with it have also taught me how to deal with difficult personalities, making me more tolerant and patient.
The advice I’d give anyone, young or older, thinking about joining this crazy wonderful profession is to not give up; that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it and when you have your own struggles and fall on your face, even when you’re at rock bottom… rock bottom has the most potential of any surface because you can only go up from there. Just take the chance… you can’t wait around for life to happen. Make some big moves, do something wild… be a lineman.
We’d love to hear more about your work. What do you do, where, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc.… What are you most proud of, either work wise or in life? What sets you apart from others?
So, that means I work 10 & 12 hour days, based out of a Nova Scotia Power depot in Sydney, NS, working every second weekend and random days throughout the week. Mostly, I do connects, reconnects, streetlights and trouble calls (part power, flickering lights, no power … that sort of thing). The area I work in is a combination of a bigger town/smaller city and all of the communities encompassing that… like a smaller urban/rural environment. Just picture what the number one ranked island in Canada, five years running, looks like and you’ve got an accurate picture.
If I’m known for anything, it’s probably that I always refer to everyday as the “BEST DAY EVER” (I figure if I keep saying it, eventually it’ll be true) and being annoyingly positive, hahahaha.
The thing that I am most proud of is probably my woodworking projects outside of work. I just LOVE building something in my head and being able to make that happen.
What sets me apart? Well, physically, I am easy to spot … 5’1”, slightly over 100lbs, long red hair, perpetually finding everything in life funny even when inappropriate (is facetious the right word?) which I’ve learned not everyone appreciates. On top of that, most apprentices seem to be in their 20’s, while I stroll in in my 30’s with an entire life I’ve already lived and hopefully a lot more left to go. I come with my own stories, struggles and experiences. I have been married for 13 years, learned some hard lessons and had some tragedies.
What do you feel are some of the obstacles that young linemen (women) face today, in the industry or generally?
My biggest obstacle is my own lack of confidence… something I have to continually work on. Another hurdle that women in particular may find in the industry that I’ve encountered a time or two is the availability of PPE and clothing, which really go hand and hand, to fit properly and be readily available. This seems to be something that is improving but there’s so much more work to do in that area.
Apparently, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. I remember being told, “Here’s a pair of size 7 Class O and Class 3 gloves… they’re the only pairs in the province. Please don’t lose them.“ Sometimes there’s a longer wait for certain things too, so if you can anticipate needing something in the future, it’s better to try to find and order it as soon as possible.
Another obstacle is found in the fact that this work often requires various moves. This involves trying to find suitable, affordable accommodations which is so hard when the entire world seems to be in a housing crisis. Along with that is the struggle some might feel with being away from friends and family.
What is an interesting experience, encounter or the craziest thing that has happened to you while working in the line profession?
I haven’t been around long enough to have the coolest stories like I hear from a lot of the lineman I’ve worked with. But I’d say one of the most memorable parts of my journey so far has been the experiences I had when Hurricane Fiona hit eastern Canada in 2022. It was really something to see different power companies from Canada and the States, along with the military and others in the community that just wanted to help out.
I had the opportunity to see and be involved with so many extreme versions of “things gone wrong” that had to be fixed. I learned a lot and met so many different people.
Who are some of the linemen that you know and admire? Is there anyone that has influenced you?
The first one that comes to mind, the one that pops up in my mind and in conversation the most … Chris Perks. I worked with him and his partner during some winter storms and learned so much from them. We lost Chris on March 25, 2022, while working on secondary. The memory of him reminds me to keep a strong, safe attitude about every aspect of the job.