Celebrating Women’s History Month with Our First Female Machinist
When she first stepped inside Sirois Tool to apply for a cleaning position in 2019, Melissa didn’t know anything about machining. Four years later, she is now the first female CNC machinist at Sirois.
After graduating high school, Melissa worked at ESPN in Bristol for a couple of years before joining Sirois. During her first few months at the company, she was introduced to CNC machining and tooling production, something she’d never learned about in high school. Seeing the engineers and machinists work with CNC milling and grinding machines piqued her interest. “I saw the parts that those guys make, and I was really impressed with everything they did,” Melissa said.
With encouragement from her coworkers, Melissa decided that she wanted to be part of the manufacturing team.
In May of 2021, Melissa was accepted into Goodwin University in East Hartford, Connecticut. The machining program, which lasted just over a year, was an immersive, hands-on experience. “It was very intimidating at first,” Melissa said, “but once I was in class, everything just made sense.”
The program taught Melissa the important machining basics, and Sirois Tool supported her academic journey. At Sirois she occasionally had the opportunity of operating machines while maintaining her cleaning job and taking night classes. Like most people challenged with something new, there was an element of fear. “At school it was a fear of failing, and at work it was a fear of crashing a machine,” Melissa said. With hard work and perseverance, she succeeded in both places and graduated in 2022.
Two months after graduation, Sirois Tool promoted Melissa as a full-time CNC Precision Machinist. Now her days consist of operating a CNC machine, inspecting the parts she runs, and comes to work each day eager to tackle a different project.
Being the only woman in an-all male department could cause anxiety for some women newly entering a shop environment. Luckily, Sirois’ employees have made the company a place for Melissa to grow as a machinist. “They never say, ‘you can’t do this because you’re a girl,” she says. If they tell her she can’t do something, “it’s mainly because I’m short,” Melissa jokes.
Although she’s completed her program and made strides in her machinist role, Melissa knows her days as a student are far from over. “I’m always learning something,” she said. When she has a question, she knows she can count on her peers and her supervisor to provide answers. They all appreciate that working with machines is a highly collaborative effort.
Melissa is currently enrolled in an on-line educational program course through the National Tooling and Machining Association University, NTMA-U to hone in on her blueprint reading skills. She understands that she always has more to learn, and continuing her education is important for her development at Sirois.
The care she takes in her work and all aspects of her life inspires her coworkers. Just ask her cat, Eleven, named after Millie Bobby Brown’s character in Netflix’s Stranger Things, or her turtle, aptly named Twelve.
For others considering a similar career path, Melissa offers this: “My one piece of advice is to always ask questions and be prepared to learn a lot.”
Having a supportive employer like Sirois Tool helps, too. If you’re looking for a positive change, visit our Careers Page.