(HUTTO, Texas) – Valerie Robin, of Austin, grew up learning from her father how to do basic work on cars.
Now she is blazing her own path in Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program at the East Williamson County campus.
Robin is the lone female in the program, working toward an associate degree that she is scheduled to complete later this year.
“It took a little getting used to,” she said about her early time at TSTC. “I have been to so many schools (while serving) in the U.S. Army, and a lot of it has to do with showing up, doing the work, and you are good to go. I have been treating it like that.”
Robin has enjoyed the machining work so far, including the patience she needs to perform detail-oriented tasks.
Robin spent 10 years in the U.S. Army working in communications.
“I prefer playing with the radios over the computers,” she said. “That was generally my thing. I was the person everyone came to to get the radios fixed and troubleshoot the problems.”
Robin was a data analyst working from home as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020. During that time, she decided a career change was needed.
“Welding is cool, but I want to make the things you see, like the complicated stuff that you need for CNC (computer numerical control) machines and lathes,” she said. “Most of my experience is doing stuff with wood and metal, just hobby stuff and 3D printing.”
Her daily motivation comes not only from the discipline she learned in the Army, but also from her pet.
“My cat is what gets me out of bed,” she said. “She is hungry.”
After graduation, Robin said she wants to open her own welding shop.
Tim Hemesath, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, admires Robin’s attentiveness in classes.
“She stays on task and is a self-starter,” he said. “Her questions are direct, meaningful and well thought out. She takes pride in her work and shows enthusiasm.”
Hemesath said more women should pursue the precision machining field because of opportunities for career growth. Women in the machining industry can progress in the field to become technicians, production supervisors and quality engineers, according to Zippia.com, a career expert website.
Zippia.com estimates that only 10% of machine operators and machinists in the United States are women.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology and a certificate of completion in Machining at the East Williamson County campus.
The Precision Machining Technology program is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee. Students in their first semester are eligible to sign up for free with campus Career Services representatives. Students are able to take part in workshops in which they learn about resume writing, interview techniques and other employment skills. Students who are not hired in their field within six months after graduation may be eligible to get a tuition refund for their time at TSTC.
For more information, go to tstc.edu.