Wielding women empowerment by welding: Local John Deere employee finds national recognition with a nontraditional career

Megan+Fee+shows+her+welding+expertise+while+working+at+John+Deere+Davenport+Works%2C+Iowa+on+December+5%2C+2018.

Megan Fee

Megan Fee shows her welding expertise while working at John Deere Davenport Works, Iowa on December 5, 2018.

By Maya Johnson, Pleasant Valley High School

In a field traditionally dominated by male workers, it could be easy for women welders to go unappreciated and unrecognized. One woman, however, is proving how hard work and determination can come together to defy these stereotypes. 

A welder at John Deere Davenport Works, Megan Fee, shows how success can be found, even amongst numerous obstacles.

Her affinity for welding and industrial technology began in her childhood. Growing up on a farm, Fee first found her passion for hands-on work from doing various tasks with her dad. This interest only blossomed as she entered high school and enrolled in woodshop and welding classes. 

Although she found her passion at a young age, Fee’s journey to a welding career wasn’t easy. From difficulties with finding a job to changing career paths, she overcame countless obstacles to be where she is today, but claims she wouldn’t want it any other way. 

“When it comes to overcoming obstacles, I take it day by day. I have learned patience over the years and how to pick my battles…and I’m still learning,” said Fee. 

A Davenport West graduate, Fee is a Quad City native and has been able to begin working towards her dream job while staying close to her hometown.

She recognizes that some of her success and initial inspiration to start a career in welding come from the support of a great teacher. Similar to classes Fee took as a high schooler, Spartans have the opportunity to be involved in numerous industrial tech courses, which many fail to take advantage of.

Industrial tech teacher, Brandon Tolle, explains how applicable and useful the skills taught in his classroom can be not only for those who want to pursue a career in those fields, but for all students. “Students in my classes are learning how to use welders, torches, wrenches, saws, and a variety of equipment and joinery to learn how industry works,” he said. 

“I feel this is beneficial for students because they get to put theory and practices learned in other courses into action. They get to use equipment and learn processes that can be used in general everyday life or as part of a career.”

The work Fee put in to achieve the position she has today due to her dedication to education and experience has not gone unnoticed. Recently this month, an article highlighting Fee’s success in a career untraditionally held by women was published by Forbes magazine. (“Weld like a Girl: A Millennial Woman’s Success In a Man’s World.”)

An impressive feat for such a young Quad City native, Fee hopes that her recognition will only inspire more young women to follow in her footsteps and pursue their passions, no matter how uncommon they may be.

“If I run into a problem that needs addressed, I’m not afraid to speak up. I will always be kind and caring, but at the same time I’m going to be strong and genuine,” Fee shared. 

She advises young girls to “[a]lways try to do the right thing, too. Mistakes will be made, but how you get past those mistakes and improve on them is what really matters. I’ve made plenty of them to know.”

Amidst her success, Fee’s work hasn’t stopped. She has big plans for her future at John Deere, hoping to acquire a training position at another company facility. 

Young girls who aspire to be like Fee have access to various opportunities today that haven’t always been available in the past. Programs like Women Who Weld and Million Women Mentors are just to name a few organizations that work toward aiding women in achieving success in the workplace and learning how to be strong leaders.

Clubs at the high school level, such as Women in STEM, could also be great opportunities for young girls who dream of pursuing a STEM career. No matter the path, current leaders, such as Fee, can attest that working hard and finding a passion is the first step in creating a life of success and satisfaction. 

While specific skills and experiences geared toward certain majors are important to be great in one’s career, Fee knows it takes more to be great in life. Passion in working is important to lead a driven life, but creating strong relationships is necessary to make all the work worth it.

“My favorite part of my job would be the relationships I’ve built with my colleagues. I have met so many people over the last six years that have made a lasting impression on my life. Some of these people I call my friends. The next best thing about my job is being able to make a difference in people’s everyday lives,” said Fee. 

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on December 9, 2019.