Women IN power – Mackenzie Gillan
“People seem to have a hard time coming around to the idea of what I do for a living.”
By Anthony Capkun
Apri 19, 2021 Take away the names and any gender identifiers, and the story you’re about to read could have been told by just about anyone.
In the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine, we invited readers to meet some of the women—in various stages of their careers—who are powering up Canada’s electrical sector, and who provided us with a candid account of their journeys as female electrical professionals.
This is MACKENZIE GILLAN’s Story
Mackenzie credits one of her high school teachers for sparking her interest in Electrical.
“She made it very exciting and entertaining to learn, and we’d always have labs where we could actually build little circuits and see how the basic theory of series and parallel circuits work. And from that day, electricity has always intrigued me”.
Mackenzie admits that she didn’t jump into Electrical right away. In fact, she didn’t really know what she wanted to do for a living; like many, she grew up with the mindset that she needed to go to university to be successful.
“And then finally, one day, I realized that there’s a huge gap in skilled trades,” says Mackenzie, and this realization was galvanized by her dad who, when they needed a plumber for the house, said to her, “Look… plumbers are making more than doctors right now. Why don’t you consider it?”.
Mackenzie, obviously, did not go down that path. Instead, after some research, she stumbled upon a course for Powerline Technician.
“And right away, the electricity and the power caught my eye. And I never really heard of [powerline technician] before; it never really occurred to me how electricity got to our house,” Mackenzie admits.
Her dad wasn’t exactly thrilled when he first learned what Mackenzie would be studying after high school but, eventually, “my father started to agree with what I was doing, and started to encourage me, and has definitely been a great advocate for me.”
And Mackenzie is loving her apprenticeship.
“Honestly, what I love is that it’s something different every day. Today, I’m back from my Level One training; last week, I had Ice Water Rescue. I’ve done off-road days as well. We’re learning every day in the field, and I’m very practical learner.”
When asked about any barriers she may have faced as a woman, Mackenzie says “People seem to have a hard time coming around to the idea of what I do for a living.”
“And I’d have a lot of people tell me: ‘You know what, switch to a different field. You know, even stay at home. Have someone else support you’.” But not Mackenzie: “I’m all about supporting myself.”
She has learned to take those comments in stride, lest she “deviate from her own goals”.
“But what I noticed was that, when you go to a jobsite, everybody has to prove themselves—especially apprentices. You need to gain trust from journeypersons. Over time, if you do small things like show up early, show interest, ask questions and show that you’re willing to learn, you will always find somebody that will take you on a journey and help you out.”
Her experiences thus far as a female apprentice have been great. “The guys that I’ve worked with at Hydro One have been amazing.”
Looking back, and wondering whether she’s made it, Mackenzie thoughtfully answers that it is all a matter of perspective.
“I just turned 22. I moved out of my parents’ house, just bought a car, and I want to be out of student debt by the end of the year. Many people [would] say ‘You made it!’,” Mackenzie says, then adds, “You know what? I’ve done some pretty amazing things in my life so far, but let’s see how far I can keep going.”
This is an excerpt from the Special Feature “Meet some of the women powering up Canada’s electrical sector”. You’ll find the full feature article—along with other great content—in the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Even more back issues are located in our Digital Archive.