Standing tall in a man’s world
This week’s Wednesday Woman is a bright spark in a man’s field and she has the burns to prove it.
Kim Harris is a vehicle repairer at the Barbados Muffler Centre Limited in Cane Garden, St Thomas, where she does welding, bends pipes, makes fabrications for vehicles and is also a little bit of a mechanic.
Those who visit the centre to carry out business are often amazed at her focus and assertiveness while at work. And those who are privileged to have her work on their vehicle often praise her and spread the word that “she is one of the best in the business on the island”.
The MIDWEEK NATION recently took Harris away from cutting metal and protecting her eyes with relevant material from the bright sparks, to find out what it meant to be a woman working in a muffler centre.
In a humble voice and body language, she pointed out that though doing the work for more than 15 years, she was still learning.
“I am still learning and every day is a learning process for me because every day I handle a different vehicle which is a different job,” she said.
The 38-year-old said she was always one who preferred to work with her hands. Luckily for her, in 1995, she was inexperienced but through connections, she was granted the opportunity to work and learn at the centre.
“Here is where I learned my welding and everything else. I was given the opportunity and I am thankful because I know so much today.”
She said it has become easy for her to smile, when customers looked at her and were impressed after noticing her presence in the centre. She said her greatest satisfaction was when a customer appreciated the finished product because the job was well done.
“People would say that they don’t see women doing this kind of job and they are glad to see a woman doing something better than a man. I would hear that from people, especially older women. They would tell me to show the men what women can do and keep up the good work!”
Harris said she was quick to encourage any woman interested in joining her field of work; and just as quick to indicate to them that while financially rewarding, the job was like any other – not easy.
The willpower to learn must be there, she warned.
“You got to get accustomed to the burns. When I first started out, I used to get a lot of burns. I still get burns in between now because it can’t be avoided. But when you now start learning, you get burns after burns.
“If you willing to work, learning would come easy. If you just coming to get a pay [cheque], learning the job would not come easy and you would not get accustomed to the burns,” said a giggling Harris, pointing out that “egg white” which she used to heal and clear the burnt marks, was now her good friend.
The vehicle repairer aspires to own her own business in the field someday. But her biggest objective was to pass on the passion to reach for excellence, no matter how hard she has to work, to her three children.
“I have two girls and one boy and they have no problem with me being involved in this field. But I try to encourage them to be what they want to be. I tell my girls and the boy to work for your money and don’t sit down and depend on anybody, except Jesus. I don’t spoil my children.
“I tell them that you have to work for what you want because I am not out here sitting down, I out here working hard and I have the burns to prove it,” Harris said.