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Wind Warriors whip challenges

Iowa Lakes hosts Wind Warrior Challenge

October 27, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Tuesday morning, wind warriors took on challenges in ladder and hub rescues, first aid, electrical troubleshooting, and rigging during the Wind Warrior Competition.

The challenge was a friendly opportunity to test each team's skills and learn from others in the wind industry.

Before the awards were presented, students from high school, college, and beyond heard from a panel of wind industry leaders. One of these was Karen Tucker from Wanzek, a company with nearly 10 gigawatts of wind energy projects.

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Tucker was living in Lake Park, Iowa when the company where she worked as a quality engineer moved to Mexico. During an online job search she found an opening for an engineer in Ocheydan, though the name of the town was spelled incorrectly. Thinking this was a case of an out-of-state company entering the wrong zip code and accidentally listing in Iowa, she called anyway.

"That's how you pronounce it!" The person on the other end of the phone call exclaimed.

That's how Tucker, with no background in wind, became a wind nerd.

"I love wind, I love wind turbines, and I love wind data," Tucker said.

About working in a male-dominated field, Tucker said, "I don't really notice. Just about a month ago we hired our first female wind techs. They're doing great. I really haven't had challenges career-wise, and I have grown to love porta-potties."

Tucker said, "In wind, you're kind of like a big family, whether you're a base engineer working with the same eight to 20 guys, or out in the field working somewhere temporarily."

Tucker continued, "I have not seen any difference for females. Everyone does great together, and the females I have hired go on to be successful."

Wind is an industry that starts at $16-24 per hour out of high school with no experience, $22-27 per hour after college, and upon working up to a level 3 wind tech, the pay can be over $30 per hour.

The panel recommended young students interested in a career as a wind tech do not amass any DUIs on their driving records, develop computer skills, especially the ability to learn new software, think on their feet, and demonstrate they want a career in wind.

Tucker said, "I look at 100 resumes a week. I don't have much time to spend on any one."

Tucker recommends an applicant list certifications very clearly. Tucker said because the jobs are national, many interviews are conducted by Skype.

"The dynamics are different. It's a big deal to arrive early. Call in five to ten minutes early and it's fine; you'll just be hanging out alone until the interviewer logs on. Take time a couple of days before to figure out Skype if you've never used it," Tucker said.

As with every career, soft skills are key. In this case attitude and work ethic can count more than a hard skill set.

"It takes about 30 seconds to find out about someone in this age of Google, so Google yourself a few times. While some items there may not be much you can do anything about, control the items in your control. Your profile picture should be you smiling in front of a wind turbine," Tucker said.

In the Wind Warrior Challenge, Lost Lakes emerged once again as the overall winners. The team of three, who also nearly swept last year's awards, also won first prize in first aid and electrical troubleshooting.

The AWEA Wind Energy Conference continues through Thursday at the SERT building on the campus of Iowa Lakes Community College.



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