The Eleven Percent: Meet Maggie Rogosienski, Electrical Apprentice
Maggie Rogosienski talks about switching careers, navigating harassment and what's in her tool bag.
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This FH series introduces readers to a few of the women who make up 11 percent of the construction workforce in the United States, spotlighting stories of their careers in the field. Know someone we should feature? Email us here.
At age 34 with a four-year-old son, Maggie Rogosienski hit a wall. She loved her career as a personal trainer until two major life events shook her world: A divorce, then a landlord suddenly shutting down the gym she owned.
“I thought it was going to be my forever career,” she says. “I was devastated. I mean, I really hit rock bottom.”
Her brother, 38 at the time, also faced a career crossroads. So when their steamfitter cousin suggested the trades, the siblings made a pact to begin electrical apprenticeships.
“I was terrified,” she says. “I remember crying the day before I started, thinking that I can’t do this. I never had more than a Walmart screwdriver to my name. There’s nothing wrong with it; I think I even still have it. But the trades were never an environment that I was exposed to.”
On her first day she didn’t know what to do, so she organized a mess of hardware on the shelves. That boosted her confidence. Today, she’s in her third year of the program in Milwaukee.
“I’ll never look back with an atom of regret,” she says. “Life has been both a blessing and a challenge, but I’m grateful for who I am becoming. I love construction and truly feel like I’m going to wind up in a life greater than I ever believed possible.”
She also became a trades social media influencer on Instagram, where she shares challenges, triumphs and advice. @Electric.Mags has more than 14,000 followers.
We asked Rogosienski for her thoughts on switching careers and electrical apprenticeships.
Q: What are the pitfalls of switching to a trade career later in life?
A. I had to get over not wanting to go back to school for another five years. But you have to live your life, so who cares if you have six different careers?
Also, the first time I had to listen to some 19-year-old trying to give me instruction, I’m like, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you when you’re talking to the ceiling and there’s all of this heavy equipment running. Younger apprentices don’t say anything, but I have to communicate my concerns because I’m past that stage of discomfort in life.
I still do have a few insecurities, though. I’m in my third year and I feel like I should be a lot further with my knowledge and skills. But everybody tells me it’ll just click one day. We’ll see.
Q: Any pros or cons of being a woman apprentice?
A. I’ve had some issues with [harassment]. It’s a sticky situation, but I try to deal with it head on.
When someone does something inappropriate, I usually just laugh, because it’s almost predictable. If they don’t respect me, that’s up to them. I’m just here to work, be professional and do this for my family.
On the flip side, it’s been ingrained in everybody’s head, “Don’t talk to her until you know she’s not going to file a sexual harassment complaint for saying hi or something.” And I get that fear has to exist. So I’m usually the one to say “hi” first.
Otherwise, a lot of people are very supportive of women. They help when I’m struggling, and they see the benefit of working with a woman. We think differently. I can fit in smaller places, which gives me some value. I can’t do everything, but at least I’ve got some things they can’t do, ever.
I also respect that men are stronger and taller than me, so we all deserve to be congratulated. That’s part of the brotherhood, or sisterhood, to know we’re all just trying to pass along knowledge and do a good job.
Q: Which projects stand out to you?
Courtesy Maggie Rogosienski
A. I love conduit bending. I haven’t gotten to do nearly enough of it. I want to get good at it because that’s what makes an electrician an electrician.
Also, I’ve been in hospitals a lot. It’s always interesting to see behind the walls. I didn’t used to think about how everything around me needs electricity. Now it’s wild to see the little things I used to pass by and not think about, because it wasn’t part of my job.
Q: What changes have you seen?
A: In the last few years, I’ve seen tremendous changes.
I remember posting on Instagram about struggling to find a woman’s boot that wasn’t pink or purple. Unfortunately, I still see those out there, but also companies are coming out of the woodwork with women’s work products. I think they’re seeing that we’re not going anywhere, so they’re figuring out how to support us. I hope the diversity keeps growing.
Q: Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
A: I actually gave up the idea of thinking about that, because that’s where I missed growing in my other careers. Every day is “live for today.”
As a past business owner, I know I’m capable of learning from the ground up and succeeding. Plus, technology is changing so rapidly, we have no idea what’s even coming. It makes me feel like I really made a good decision. I’ve grown a lot and I’m unbelievably humbled by everything I’ve learned about myself.
There’s so much of ourselves we don’t get to see throughout our lives because we let ourselves get comfortable. And when we don’t push ourselves into discomfort, we fail to change, evolve and adapt.
Q: Any advice for young women looking to get into electrical or other trades?
A: It’s unbelievable how much work there is in the trades. So keep an open mind, and educate yourself about what you’re getting into and the long-term and short-term consequences of your decisions.
Be honest with yourself. Nobody can read your mind, so communicate what you need out of this career. That will help set you up for success.
As far as being a woman in the trades, we need to stop having these inner struggles and insecurities, because we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Trust in yourself. Every door is out there ready to be opened. But you have to chase it down, knock it down or build around it.
Q: What are your pro-specific tools?
Courtesy Maggie Rogosienski
A: I like Klein Tools a lot, and I’m part of their Trusted Pros Ambassador Program. I use their 25-foot tape measure. The magnetic end helps in the tight spots we have to get into for our conduit. Their multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver 15-in-1 tool comes with a storage bottom and all the most important bits I use, which cuts down on the number of tools I need to carry.
THE electrical tool is Klein’s nine-inch side-cutter lineman’s pliers, which are essential for wire cutting and pulling and, with this specific version, crimping terminals onto wire. The heavy-duty grip is perfect for non-slip jobs, especially when your hands start to sweat.
Then there’s my Channellock pliers and my Klein-Kurve wire stripper and cutter, for 8-18 AWG solid and 10-20 AWG stranded wire. I like these in particular because of the way they fit the curve of my hand and give me more leverage.
Finally, there’s my multimeter electrical test kit, which keeps me safe and helps in troubleshooting. The added flashlight on the voltage tester is a nice addition, so I can see which wires might be hot, especially in dark, over-packed junction boxes.
Maggie Rogosienski Bio
Maggie Rogosienski aims to inspire others by sharing her journey from post-grad aspiring physician to gym owner who jumped headfirst into the unknown world of construction. She is a third-year electrical apprentice in Milwaukee and a social media influencer in the trades. Electric Mags, as she is known on social media, is also mother to a busy nine-year-old son.
Writer Karuna Eberl Bio
Karuna Eberl is a regular contributor to FamilyHandyman.com. She’s spent the last 25 years as a freelance journalist and filmmaker, telling stories of people, nature, travel, science and history. Eberl has won numerous awards for her writing, her Florida Keys Travel Guide and her documentary, The Guerrero Project.