I’m a New Mom In a Male-Dominated Industry — Here’s What Returning to Work Meant For Me

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Sharita Boyd

Photo courtesy of Sharita Boyd

Sharita Boyd knows the value that comes from leaning into being uncomfortable — literally. 
As an Electrical Substation Operator for Southern California Edison, she opted to leave behind the climate-controlled comfort of her prior customer service role for a career path that takes her out into the field, rain or shine. It’s a change she’s proud of making and, as she looks ahead to where her path at SCE can take her, it’s also one she says has come with a host of benefits.

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“I love the flexibility in my current work schedule,” Boyd said. “Yes, we work a lot of hours... but if you want to take time off to enjoy your family or just to get a mental break, there is plenty of time for that, as well. Sometimes our scheduled shifts will allow us seven days off in a row while still getting our full work hours in, not including any vacation time, and that is so amazing.”
These days, being able to balance personal time alongside professional commitments is of extra value to Boyd, a new mom who recently transitioned back to working full-time from maternity leave. She says her coworkers have played a part in easing the transition (“I couldn’t work with a greater group of people!”), and it also helps that the nature of her work allows her to keep work and home separate. It’s about concentrating on the job at hand while she’s at work and unplugging while she’s away — a balance that isn’t always the easiest to strike in today’s digital world. 
Recently, Boyd chatted with Fairygodboss about what it’s like being a woman in her male-dominated industry, how she approaches risk taking, and her No. 1 piece of advice to female job seekers.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?  
I’ve been in my current role for four and a half years; prior to that, I was a Customer Service Representative for SCE’s Business Advisory Center.
What do you do in your role? 
I assist field crews in directing and redirecting power flow, maintain unmanned electrical substations in the field, help restore electric power during planned and unplanned power outages, serve as first responder for emergency services as needed, and many other duties.
What’s the first thing you do at work every day? 
The first thing I do before and after my shift is thank God. We work in a field that can be very hazardous; you never know when something can go wrong, you get an injury or worse. Every day I pray for a safe day, and I thank God for the opportunity to go home at the end of the work day.
What’s something you’re especially good at work? 
I’ve become very good at being aware of my surroundings at all times, and also at being self-reliant and defining my own direction since we’re often working alone in the field.
What’s it like to be a woman in your line of work? 
It is really great. There aren’t a lot of women in my position.Every once in a while I’ll get the side eye from a customer who isn’t sure that I’m capable of handling the workload. But once you prove yourself, it is amazing. The men that I work with are great and always willing to teach me best practices to help me be successful. I couldn’t work with a greater group of people!
What are some challenges that you’ve experienced, and how have you overcome them? 
We can work a lot of hours, which means a lot of time away from home. A very recent challenge for me has been the birth of my first child and the transition from spending all my time with him during my maternity leave, to going back to work at full capacity. It’s hard to concentrate on the workload when all I want to do is go home and get more cuddles. As long as I concentrate and work safely, I know I will make it home eventually and get those cuddles in.
What are you trying to improve on? 
I am trying to improve on my job skills so that I can move forward in the company. I have a goal of becoming either a District Program Writer or Transmissions System Operator, so I’ve been studying and preparing myself for that next step in my career at Southern California Edison.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 
Taking the risk in moving outside of my comfort zone. I left the comfort of office work and sitting behind the desk in an air-conditioned room to come out into the field where we work rain or shine outdoors. I’m proud of the transition from indoors to outdoors, but also the complete change in career from Customer Service to Transmission and Distribution.
What do you love most about your job or your company? 
I love the flexibility in my current work schedule. Yes, we work a lot of hours; there usually isn’t a shortage of overtime hours if you want them. But if you want to take time off to enjoy your family or just to get a mental break, there is plenty of time for that. Sometimes our scheduled shifts will allow us seven days off in a row while still getting our full work hours in, not including any vacation time, and that is so amazing. 
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now? 
Do not limit yourself. Do not discredit yourself based on your gender. If you are willing to study hard and work hard, there is really no limit to the array of jobs you should be applying for. I know that it’s scary to step out of your comfort zone, but you just create new comfort zones as you venture out into the different workforces.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why? 
My mother. She was my biggest cheerleader. She talks to me constantly about not becoming complacent. She believes that every generation in our family should do better than the previous generation. She wants me to be in a better position than her, and she encourages me to instill that same mentality in my very young son.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 
Gil Ruiz is the supervisor that hired me in my current role. Shortly after getting the position, I started having some issues at home and he noticed my focus changing. He gave me this advice: there will always be distractions in your life, but with this position, it is important to leave all personal problems at the main gate before you enter. When you leave at the end of the day, you can pick them back up again. But concentrate on your work so that you get to go home and deal with problems later. It’s been almost five years, and I still take a deep breath and leave personal business at the gate.
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