Women of Zekelman: Jessica Wells
Jessica Wells has been a kindergarten teacher, a transmission builder, and a dental hygienist. Now she’s the ultrasonic tester and floater at Atlas Tube, a company of Zekelman Industries.
Why all the career changes? “I didn’t want to do one thing for the rest of my life,” Wells explains. “That’s why I chose the factory life.”
Wells enjoys the ever-changing nature of factory work. After starting at Atlas Tube as a welder, she was promoted to an operator position in less than two years. She also works as an occasional floater on the factory floor, which lets her wear multiple hats — and develop skills in new areas. “I believe that all of our operators should know everything on the line,” she says.
With no prior manufacturing experience, Wells had to learn “everything,” when she started at Atlas, she says. But Zekelman’s training programs and her natural interest in learning made it a smooth transition. “I had a trainer and two more employees from the line that made sure that I was getting the training that I needed,” Wells says.
During that training, Wells decided to explore the entire Atlas facility in Blytheville, Arkansas, to learn more about the company’s operations. “I went from my machine to the next machine, to the next machine, to the next machine,” she says. “I wanted to learn it all.”
This foundational knowledge has allowed her to climb the career ladder quickly, and she’s now setting her sights on a long tenure at the company. “I see myself going to the top,” she says. “This job really motivates you if you put yourself in the right spot for it.”
Today, Wells and her team produce structural tubing and piling. Wells says she loves the feeling of seeing her team’s products in the real world. “It’s nice to pass by something and say, ‘I created that,’” she says.
A Rewarding Role
As a supervisor at Zekelman, Wells encourages her direct reports and fellow teammates to challenge themselves. Like Wells, many of them came to Zekelman without experience in manufacturing.
Her advice to new Zekelman employees? “Don’t overthink it.” It’s scary to feel like you know nothing at first, but that’s okay, she says.
Wells is confident that people can learn anything if they’re willing to apply themselves. She says the most rewarding part of her job is watching her colleagues find their sense of self when taking on new and unfamiliar roles. “The joy that they get when they realize they can actually do it — that’s what it’s all about for me,” she says.
There’s nothing better than building something you believe in.
Zekelman companies are in constant motion, expanding our teams and challenging convention.
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