When Jennifer Finley says she’s married to her work, it carries a literal as well as figurative meaning. Her husband, Michael Finley, is a 20-year veteran as a welding inspector with nine years in the tower industry. Having been on the job eight years, Jennifer acknowledges the mentorship he’s given her, although they met after she had started her career in wireless infrastructure.
“He has helped me grow significantly,” she said. “I am beyond grateful for everything he has shown me, shared with me, and taught me. He is also my husband, which is an added bonus for the traveling end of this industry, we get to be together 24/7. We never have a dull moment.”
Jennifer got her start when she was offered an opportunity to do tower mount mappings by a friend in the business. She said she enthusiastically accepted as it was very different from her normal, everyday life at the time. “I consider myself to be adventurous and love a challenge,” she said. “This industry offered both. So I packed up, shipped out for Comtrain class, and was on my way.”
Not long on the job, she was moved to doing modifications where she was eventually assigned a lead position, a work truck, water trailer, and a welder. Working with two-to-four man crews, she became interested in the work being done by the inspector.
“I asked a lot of questions during inspections and paid close attention to what he was doing,” Finley said. “I was like a little sponge just absorbing anything I could. I finally made the decision to pursue the welding inspection side of the industry which led to where I am now, a Welding Inspector with Metal Inspection Technology.”
On a typical day, Finley says she arrives on a site to do anything from a base weld inspection on a monopole, or an inspection of an installation, checking the stiffeners, anchor rod brackets, split pipe, repairs and more.
“If it’s being welded we look at it,” she said. “We do visual, magnetic particle testing, and ultrasonic shearwave testing during our inspections. We perform post anchor rod pull testing and do structural analysis from the ground to the top of the structure.”
Other than an occasional “heart check” from the positioning lanyard, Finley said she doesn’t really get scared on a tower and finds herself fortunate to not have encountered anything too life-threatening. “I am always very cautious and pay close attention, both with myself and Michael, to what I/we grab, stand on, or tie off to.”
The job has taken her to the top of the Willis (aka, Sears) Tower in Chicago, where she said, no other women have ever ventured. “The whole crew of people we work with up there are amazing and the views up there are absolutely breathtaking,” she said.
Asked if she could recommend this field to other women, she said it is just a matter of how bad they want it. “It’s tough at times but if you put your mind to it, the possibilities are endless,” she said. “If there are other women out there that want to give it a go then why not. Women are just as capable as men to do this line of work.”
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor