Insights > Entergy Arkansas’ First Female Line Worker ‘Loves the Adventure’
Entergy Arkansas’ First Female Line Worker ‘Loves the Adventure’
Sara Russell-Lingo didn’t set out to make history. But after a few post-high-school years of dead-end warehouse jobs and a stint in retail, “I was looking for a career.”
She found one as the first female Entergy Arkansas lineworker.
Saw it on TV
Russell-Lingo, 25, grew up in South Bend, Ark., a community near Jacksonville. It may be that electricity is in her blood; her grandfather is a retired electrician. He saw a story on KATV news about H-VOLT Academy, an Entergy-supported lineworker school at UA Pulaski Tech and told her about it. She was intrigued by the prospects of working outdoors, earning good pay, having a promising career path, and helping people all day every day. Before long, she was enrolled at H-VOLT Academy while continuing a job at Lowe’s.
Entergy Arkansas leadership saw her scores, liked her attitude, and made her a part of the team beginning May 12, reporting to Line Supervisor Bert Wilson out of the West Markham Service Center. Step one in her training was two months of “linemen’s boot camp” in Jackson, Miss., where new apprentices learn to climb poles, are taught to appreciate the importance of safety on and off the job, and begin to acquire other basic skills needed for line work. She’s now in the next phase of her professional development, a four-year apprenticeship, after which she will be a journeyman lineworker.
Life as a Lady Lineworker
“I love the adventure,” Russell-Lingo said. “I love going to communities; their lights are off and they're all grumpy and upset, and we leave and they're just all smiling and happy.”
What’s it like being a woman in a job in Arkansas that, up to now, has been done entirely by men? “I don't look at it as a man's job. It's a career, and it's awesome. And the guys I work with have been great. They don't treat me any different, and I don't see myself as any different. You know, I just fit in. They’re teaching me what I need to know and watching out for me.”
So, lineman? Line worker? “I'm perfectly fine with being called a lineman,” Russell-Lingo said.
Customers notice that she’s not a line man. “I pulled up to this house one time and got out of the truck and put my hard hat on and everything. This girl looks at her mom and says, ‘Mom, it's Superwoman!’”
Now that Russell-Lingo has opened the door for women to be Entergy Arkansas line workers, who’s next? “I've been asking around, encouraging women I know to look into it. And I can’t find any. It's unbelievable. I don't know what it is. But you got to want to do it.” Still, the opportunity is there, and Entergy Arkansas would welcome additional female applicants.
Russell-Lingo is realistic about the road ahead. “You know, when a girl comes into the program and doesn’t even know how to change a tire, there’s a lot to learn. It helps to be mechanically inclined, and I wasn’t. But I’m learning every day.”
Russell-Lingo had her doubts about line work because of the physical strength required. But after she got some hands-on experience, she found that, with the tools and techniques available to her, she is physically strong enough. It was the mental challenge that took some getting over. “If you tell yourself you can't do something, you're not going to do it. It's all in the mindset. So I told myself ‘you can do this.’”
And she can. At boot camp, she recalls, in a class of 20, she’d sometimes finish second in a series of pole-climbing drills. “You don't just hop on a pole and go up. It’s rhythm. You got to find your rhythm.”
Another common challenge for new line workers is a fear of heights. Fortunately, Russell-Lingo said, heights “don't bother me a bit.”
All About Safety
Russell-Lingo has learned that everything about line work for Entergy starts and ends with safety. “Safety is number one priority, always. You always want to be watching. Electricity is no joke.” In addition to formal training in the classroom and in the field, Russell-Lingo has the benefit lately of working alongside Journeyman Serviceman Aaron Ramos. “He's wants every task done perfectly and perfectly safely. He reminds me that, with some mistakes, you don’t get any do-overs. You have to stay focused all the time.”
Russell-Lingo and her husband, Dale Fairchild, live in Jacksonville. They have no children just yet.
As for the future, Russell-Lingo is focusing mostly on being the best lineworker she can be. But, for the first time, she’s excited about working for a company from which she can see herself retiring someday after a long, fulfilling and safe career.