Designing her own path forward
Rachel Jeske is a successful leader in the mechanical contracting industry, a mother of four, and an active craftswoman. Throughout her career at TOTAL Mechanical, Rachel advanced from working as a Service Dispatcher to becoming a Controls Designer.
However, you have to read Rachel's full journey to see how dedication, patience, willingness to learn, and calm demeanor can achieve a fulfilling family life and a successful career in STEM!
It's never too late to pursue your dream
Rachel was a born builder. Growing up, she remembers building with Legos and making crafts out of any material she could find. When Rachel and her husband first became parents, they made a decision to postpone her career ambitions until the right moment. They alternated work shifts for 10 years to make sure that one of them was always with their four boys.
Rachel kept a part-time job in a book warehouse and was laid off every summer for 3 months. She thought of it as a perfect job for a "wannabe stay-at-home mom." However, when her last pregnancy ended in an unfortunate miscarriage, Rachel and her husband decided to refocus her efforts on the postponed career.
Rachel inspecting a job site in her PPE
After a year of leaving the stay-at-home mom's life and plenty of rejections, a fellow parent at her kids' school informed Rachel of an opening with TOTAL Mechanical. She applied for a full-time position as a Service Dispatcher and landed the job! Rachel’s drive and willingness to learn immediately took over helping her advance.
I made sure to try to help out everyone and listen in order to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Within 6 months of starting, I was promoted to the Controls Division.
As a Controls Designer, Rachel reads blueprints and interprets sequences of operations to identify the correct field components and sensors that the mechanical equipment requires to operate for a building automation system (BAS). Rachel then selects the controller with the proper amount of inputs and outputs for the project. Once the components are identified, she designs the wiring diagrams that technicians utilize to connect the various mechanical equipment to the control panel. At completion, a full building automation system will operate and monitor the heating, cooling, lighting, energy usage, security cameras, and door security.
Earning her respect in the Mechanical Contracting Industry
TOTAL Mechanical is very proud of women in the Mechanical Contracting Industry and has helped Rachel to learn and grow over the years. But even with this great support, she experienced gender bias working in a male-dominated environment. Rachel had to learn how to assert herself.
I know this isn’t unique to my industry, but it amuses me when someone has an issue or a question and they subconsciously walk right by me to ask my male counterparts even though I’m the more qualified person to ask. After they learn that I’m the go-to they start coming to me … but that respect has to be earned.
Honoring her Native American Heritage through crafts
Rachel is a proud descendant and first certified artisan of the Hannahville Potawatomi Tribe. She handcrafts beautiful Nesh
I mostly make ribbon skirts, shirts, dream catchers, and beaded earrings. Although I’m most passionate about making moccasins and have learned to craft 4 styles so far and I'm eager to learn more. One of my goals is to start teaching my crafts-work techniques to pass on the knowledge I gained through this journey.
Email Rachel to get these adorable handmade moccasins!
The wonderful, crazy, family life
In Rachel's household, everything is in a constant state of motion. Everyone moves in their own direction with a packed schedule full of school, activities, volunteering, work, and hobbies. Life gets crazy, but Rachel’s advises to remain calm and collected.
Sometimes people ask me 'How do you do it all?' The truth is I don't. My house is not always clean. I'm not always sewing or baking. I just do what absolutely needs to be done, while trying to squeeze in something I enjoy. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, but we try to come together as a family to get it done!
Rachel & Xena find the perfect fit
Rachel was first introduced to Xena Workwear when her Safety Director changed their safety policy, requiring PPE safety shoes for everyone who steps foot on the shop floor. As a Controls Designer, Rachel frequently moves in and out of the shop since she manages the inventory for TOTAL's controls divisions.
Then, Rachel's HR department sent out an email to all the women in her company with a link to Xena's website. Rachel gushes,
I usually dress business casual in the office and I hated putting on those big, clunky, clown shoes. When I checked out Xena, I rushed to order mine immediately. I was just so excited and I couldn’t way to try them out.
Rachel dancing in her favorite pair of Xena steel-toes!
Rachel was one of the first 100 people to order her pair of Xenas and the founder, Ana Kraft, personally contacted Rachel to meet up and give her a private fitting.
It was so thoughtful for Ana to reach out and coordinate a meeting with me. I got the perfect fit for my shoes and was thrilled to hear her journey with Xena!
Rachel's favorite aspect of her Xena safety boots is that they are designed by women, for women right in her backyard of Milwaukee, WI. She now feels confident in her work attire and actually enjoys pairing her PPE with different outfits.
When I'm on the job, I usually need my hard hat, safety glasses, my phone, and hearing protection. Women’s clothes aren't designed to hold all these items. I'm eager to see what clothing Xena comes out with in the future!
A parting call-to-action
Rachel inspires everyone with a drive to follow their passions regardless of the initial knowledge or educational background.
Never let position requirements, qualifications, or your own thoughts stop you from applying for a job you are interested in. If I read the qualifications for my first job at TOTAL, I likely wouldn't have applied and wouldn't be where I today, which is much, much further than I could have ever imagined!
Rachel Jeske, courtesy of Xena Workwear & Patrick Betcher
––––––––––––––––––Photography by Patrick Betcher