Sister Story: Tatjana Sebro

October 2, 2023

Local 206 (San Diego, California) sheet metal worker Tatjana Sebro first learned about the sheet metal trade when she was working three jobs, including at the local school district – burning the candle on both ends was exhausting, she said, and she “knew [she] needed something more.” Now, as an assembly foreman in a fabrication shop, she demonstrates the skill and expertise of union craftsmanship every day, and she takes every opportunity to spread the word about the life-changing nature of the trade. Read more in her sister story:

What unique strengths do you bring to your trade?

Leadership, integrity, resilience, tenacity, courage, confidence, consistency.

What do you love to do when you are not at work?

I am such a homebody. I love brain teasers and things that continue to expand and grow your mind and potential. I love spending a day or evening getting lost in a good read. But my extrovert ways will always have me outside, somewhere near the water or doing some sort of adventurous activity. I love hiking and doing things to accelerate my heartbeat. I love working out and all things competitive.

Goals in the future — any ambitions or changes to your career, growth or education?

Finishing my apprenticeship, becoming a journeyperson and then obtaining a foreman role have definitely surpassed any of my expectations. Now that I have nothing but the opportunity to grow, I sit back and think about the things that come naturally to me, and I think about the joy of guiding, advocating and teaching – so, instructor here I come. I love educating and reminding others of the potential we can reach. I am currently chasing goals and dreams of teaching and recruiting. I want to continue to educate and inform others of my trade and the endless opportunities that are available to so many people of so many walks of life.

What surprised you about your trade?

Sheet metal is so vast. There are so many things that contain or involve sheet metal, that many people are so uneducated about. Working in a fabrication shop and being introduced to metal in a flat form, and then being able to watch it be bent, shaped and formed into all these intricate pieces is mind-blowing.

This opportunity has opened doors for me to connect with many people from many walks of life, giving me opportunities to educate others and even open potential doors to network and create. I’m still surprised about how many individuals don’t know the trade and work alongside it daily. Predominantly working in HVAC, I make it my goal to educate.

What do you find frustrating about your job/trade?

I don’t enjoy the fact that a lot of people don’t know about sheet metal – they have no idea what it is. I understand, because I came into the trade with the same misconception, but I just want to be a part of educating. I would love to have way more recruitment and opportunities to teach people of all walks of life – all genders, all ethnicities, all ages – about sheet metal. I am part of an amazing trade that anyone can make a wonderful living from.

How did you get into SMART?

Before SMART, I worked for the local school district. I had a great rapport with my coworkers and worked alongside a maintenance man who previously had a business in sheet metal. We would always talk about the pros and cons of the trade and just how expansive it was and would be. In addition to working at the school district, I also had two other jobs. Burning the candle from both ends was exhausting, and I knew I needed something more – I was just destined for it. I ended up browsing the trades, and sheet metal was the one that had the skill and craftsmanship I was looking for. I was able to dive into a long-lost dream of being involved in a trade. I reached out to the union hall, filled out an application, took the entry exam, did my interview, and the rest is history.

Tool you can’t live without?

I cannot live without my sheet metal hammer! In the role and position I work in, I would be useless without my sheet metal hammer. I know snips and shear are definitely tools of the trade, but for me, my sheet metal hammer is my best friend.

Best advice you got as an apprentice?

When I was a second-period apprentice, I received a piece of advice that was truly vital to putting me in the position I am in today. My boss gave me a great analogy that was unforgettable. He likened the apprenticeship program to baseball tryouts: not everyone will make it. But he needed players who have it all, who have versatility. Can you play catcher, pitcher, outfield, short stop? Embrace everything you do and make sure you do your best, as if someone is always running for your spot.

I’m not sure why this advice was so impactful, or what exactly it was about it that stuck, but I took the blueprint – and starting then, I did what I needed to. I truly believe that is what has me in the position I am in with my company six years later.

What do you think about Tradeswomen Build Nations?

I love Tradeswomen Build Nations. Becoming part of a trade and union was enough of a benefit – then being able to be a part of a sisterhood is the biggest gift ever. Every time I attend an event, I am speechless, in tears. The energy always runs high and is so penetrating. I leave with great connections and a real sense of family and togetherness!

Are you active in trade-related activities such as career fairs, volunteer work or SMART Army events?

I make an effort to be a part of all volunteer work and SMART-related events and activities.