In high school, Elly-May used the connection of her friend’s mother who worked in an office to get work experience. Her friend’s mother took Elly-May’s request to her boss, who allowed her one week of work experience. By the end of her third day there, she’d impressed the boss into offering her a job.
This would prove to be a trend for Elly-May—getting a foot in the door first and impressing them to the point where they then hold the door open for her. Another time when she noticed her next-door neighbour working on his shed, Elly-May offered to help, and upon his acceptance impressed him into offering her a week of work experience as a roofer for his shed and patio company.
Despite Elly-May’s proactive attitude, it wasn’t until Year 10 that she focused her ambition. During a student-teacher interview, she was asked the all-important question: What do you want to be?
‘Plumber’ was the first thing that popped into her head, and as she spoke the word, she realised it was true.
Not everyone was convinced. Some of the boys at school implied her biology couldn’t handle it, as a female she could never build enough muscle to lift what she needed to for the job. Others told her that she couldn’t handle being yelled at by men.
Elly-May persisted and from her experiences learned that you didn’t get yelled at unless you did something wrong. But even she was surprised when, upon being instructed to move a hot water unit, she earned herself the nickname ’Muscles’.
With the realisation of her goals, Elly-May applied for a job at Reece Plumbing. She worked the warehouse counter through year 11 and 12, familiarising herself with the products to give herself a head start on other would-be plumbers after graduation. She was the first female to work in the role, and unfortunately, she was often faced with rude and dismissive customers who insisted on being served by a man.
Elly-May persisted and within two months, her boss told her she’d become better than half the boys she worked with. By then she had busted all stereotypes and won over several customers who were now willing to wait for Elly-May to serve them instead of her available male co-workers.
When Elly-May graduated from high school she already had seven job offers. Among the offers was a full time role at Reese’s, a role in her neighbours company, an electrician job, and a plumbing apprenticeship with Tom Moore Plumbing, one of her regular customers.
It was a difficult decision to make, but plumbing was what she had been working towards for two years and she needed to give it a go. She decided to do her apprenticeship with Tom Moore Plumbing, a customer that had been nice to her from the start, and never seemed to care that she was a girl.
Elly-May’s ultimate goal is to have her own plumbing business, but before that, she plans to keep working for Tom Moore Plumbing after her apprenticeship ends, and repay his investment in her.
Since joining BUSY Sisters mentoring program two months ago, Elly-May has had weekly check-ins with her mentor Robyn, where she has picked up some valuable tips about being a female in a male-dominated trade. Some of these tips are extremely practical, like how most tools are designed for men, and which specific tools would fit her hands better.
When asked what she would say to other females thinking of pursuing a non-traditional career, Elly-May had just three words: “Go for it.”
At just 18 years of age, Elly-May is a true trail-blazer – and an inspiration for women looking for a non-traditional career pathway.