Working in a Male-Dominated Field
by Andrea Lynne Nannini
Wikipedia: A swimming pool service technician (known colloquially as a pool man) is a tradesperson who cleans swimming pools and services major pool equipment such as pumps, motors, and filters. ?
Et tu, Wikipedia?
While there are many different aspects to the industry, and very different areas of expertise, we are all known as ‘The Pool Guy’. As a service tech I know that my job is usually perceived as easy. I hear things like, “I wish I had your job!” and “I’m jealous! You get to be out in the sun all day!” Most people don’t realize the work-out you get from servicing a pool or how much walking and heavy lifting is involved. We are viewed as ‘the help’ and in traffic my pool truck is the target of road rage more often than my personal vehicle. Usually, we are portrayed as dumb in movies and on television. For this reason, I don’t think we are given enough credit for the work we do or the knowledge we possess. Anyone can clean a pool but it takes an educated and dedicated person to maintain a safe and healthy swimming environment.
“This morning while waiting in line to buy water for the day, I overheard a mother telling her daughter “See that woman behind us? She’s just a pool woman. She probably made bad decisions and skipped school too much. Now, instead of having a career and a life, she is only qualified enough to clean swimming pools. You don’t want that do you?” ” – Amy Lamothe, Swimming Pool Service Tech, Ontario CAN
In addition to the usual “Pool Guy” stigma, being female in a male-dominated industry has presented a completely different set of challenges. Questioning looks, and condescending tones are common especially when a problem occurs. Resolving issues becomes more difficult and takes longer because of the extra effort required to prove oneself. It can be very frustrating, and it can come from customers and co-workers, male or female, and even some industry professionals.
“A customer came into our pool store today and asked me dozens of questions. Chemical specifics, flow rates, salt system functionality…he’s an engineer so he knows everything, of course. Ten minutes later, looks at me and says “You’re a lot smarter than you look.” – Erin Thibodeau, Swimming Pool Supply Store Mgr, Pensacola Fl.
“Pool Girls” have always been a normal thing for me. My mother got a job as a service tech when I was about 15 and I got a job with the same company at 18. There were already several women working there, in the office and as techs. I was trained by a very smart woman who had years of experience.
“It’s a man job . That’s my opinion . And I’m a woman saying that . Brushing pools at every visit during the summer really takes it’s tole . I did it for a year and hired a man .” Anonymous, Owner, Pool Service Company, Gainesville Fl.
Since becoming a certified pool operator, I have learned so much more about how to take care of a pool and the swimmers. I was already a self-proclaimed ‘water snob’, even going so far as to test the water I was drinking with my Taylor test kit. Sometimes I have to hold myself back from explaining my test results when I see people drinking certain brands of bottled water.
“Women in construction are typically judged more closely than their male counterparts. When I started in the pool construction industry, I quickly realized that my best plan was to immerse myself in the industry and learn as much as possible. I studied and obtained my Certified Building Contractor (CBP) from APSP and take as many Continuing Education hours as possible yearly to stay abreast of current topics, trends and education. When Texas required a Texas Appliance Installer License for Service, I obtained that license. It was hard and challenging, but it stretched my knowledge. Women have to work harder, yet smarter, and we must demand respect when none is given.” – Debra Smith, President, Pulliam Pools, Fort Worth, TX
Some things are funny, like the guy who said that he could never understand how women could clean pools because of how hard it is. I shrugged and smiled as I walked away with my 50lb bag of bi-carb over my shoulder. Some things are not so easy to shrug off like when the unfortunate inappropriate comments are overheard.
“I happen to be a woman pool tech, a damn good one and pool service company owner (In direct response to the anonymous comment above)…. It does indeed get better and as they say, practice makes perfect. Your muscles are building and trust me they will not only stop hurting but become a very valuable tool in your tool box. You got this. Don’t give up and remember that girls can do anything boys can do. Believe in yourself. Think of it this way….it’s like doing yoga all day.” – Mary Prettyman, Owner, A Grande Choice Pool & Spa, Englewood, FL
When I think back to all the pools I was in as a kid, it makes me happy to know that I know have the knowledge and power to help prevent others from experiencing those same negative side effects that I remember. One of my favorite things to hear is, “Thank you so much for taking care of my pool! My grandkids had the best time!” The ability to clear up any algae issues or staining and maintaining healthy and sanitary water for everyone to swim without worry was my primary motivation for becoming a pool operator.
“The advice I can give is that your word is your bond, and integrity is everything. Do not take things personally because business is business. Do not hold grudges, because it only harms you. Circumstances change and you may end up working with that person again. Do help others achieve their success and be a great mentor.” – Debra Smith, President, Pulliam Pools
This industry has some of the most knowledgeable people who are willing to help with any situation. Compared to my experience in restaurants and big box retail, I have never seen such a broad base of expertise or met people with the most helpful attitudes. There are many building blocks necessary in becoming proficient and confident in your ability. Continued education is key to staying informed and ahead of potential problems. A certified pool operator course is the cornerstone of that foundation. Women who are considering joining the pool business, or expanding their knowledge by getting a certification shouldn’t feel hesitant about starting the adventure; not only because of the amazing and supportive network of pool girls and guys, but because of the rewards and excitement this industry has to offer.
– Andrea Lynne Nannini, swimming pool service tech and creator of the “Adventures of the Pool Girl” FB page
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