Fixit Keeps 'Em Talking
from It's A Living! Career News for Girls
to Girls' Issues main page
give up on your dreams. Always seek out a mentor, someone
who will help show you the way."
For 16 years Verelett Allen has worked as a radio
technician at Metropolitan Transit Authority
(Metro), the Washington, D.C.-area public transportation
company. She installs and repairs two-way radios
on buses, in police cars, and in subway tunnels.
Verelett is the only woman ever to hold this
job at Metro.
always liked taking things apart and putting
them back together,"
she says. "And I like fixing things."
But the most satisfying part of her job at Metro
is the pay rate. "It’s the most money I’ve
ever made in my life. It’s allowed me to
put three daughters through school and pay for
Verelett is now a grandmother.
of the men at Metro are a little cool to Verelett,
but she does have a friend who helped her learn
the ropes. "I don’t let the men bother
me. I know I’m good at what I do."
grew up in Washington, D.C. She spent three
years in Germany with her family when her father
was stationed there, and she remembers getting
a pink transistor radio as a present from her
grandfather. "I took it apart. I had to see
how it worked."
she returned to Washington at the age of 12,
Verelett’s life changed. Her grandfather,
who was a strong force in her life, died. Her
parents divorced. She lived with her mother,
but her mother was busy trying to make her
own life work and had little time for Verelett. "I
had complete freedom; I could do anything I
almost dropped out of school. "I quit going
to classes, but I stayed connected with my
A girlfriend, a homeroom teacher, and her mother
convinced Verlette to go back and get her high
"Senior year was fun," she says. After graduation,
Verelett, who says she didn’t know what
she wanted to do with her life, had three children
- one each year the first three years after high
school. The father of her children was already
married, so Verelett had to raise them on her
took many jobs. She worked in a cup factory,
she drove a city bus, she coordinated fashion
shows for foreign diplomats, she worked as
a waitress, and she cleaned offices. Eventually,
she found a job as an intern at a television
station, where she learned film editing.
she wasn’t making enough money to support
her and her children. So Verelett’s mother
took two of her kids and the youngest went
to stay with a cousin while Verelett followed
her friend who had found a job in radio in
California. Verelett found a job selling advertising
for radio stations. But she missed her kids,
and after six months, she headed home.
got her kids back and took welfare payments
as she worked different jobs. She was determined
to get back into TV or radio, but the rules
on who could edit had changed—she needed
more training and a license from the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC). Verelett worked
putting undercoating on cars and cleaning offices
and planned to get her FCC license. During
the next five years, she took electronic courses
in her "spare" time. Once she had the license,
she found that Metro paid better than broadcasting
and that her license was the type the company
required for the work of radio technician.
So she applied to Metro every week, until the
company finally called her for an interview.
thought she had the job. She passed the test,
she passed the physical, and the Metro representative
told her to report to work. But when she showed
up at Metro, she learned that she didn’t
have the practical experience to get the job.
The company didn’t believe she could
do the work that only men had done before.
A counselor at Metro suggested she enroll in
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a program
to help women find these types of "nontraditional"
jobs, usually held only by men. After graduating
from WOW’s electronics program in 1981,
Verelett finally landed the job at Metro.
days, Verelett starts her day at 7 a.m. and
gets home about midnight. During the first
part of the day, she goes to her job at the
National Capital Area YWCA. There she runs
a program to teach women who want nontraditional
jobs how to get ready for training. She tells
these women what to expect from apprenticeships
and internships, what the work world is really
like, and how to succeed in jobs where they
will be working mostly with men. Then at 3
p.m. Verlette starts her Metro job, where she
works until 11:30 p.m.
Monday a month, Verelett runs a support group
for women who are working in nontraditional
jobs. The members of the group talk about any
problems they are having and try to help each
other to stay in the jobs. Verelett loves both
her jobs—fixing things at Metro and teaching
women at the YWCA. She has become so well known
throughout the United States for her work in
helping women get jobs that she’s been
to the White House and met President and Mrs.
pink transistor radio/ Graduates high school/
Has 3 daughters/ Works fashion shows & TV station/
Studies for FCC license & works undercoating
cars/ Gets radio technician job/ Teaches at
YWCA/ Honored at White House
LIKE THIS JOB IF YOU
to take equipment apart to see how it works & fix
to solve puzzles and problems.
interested in studying electronics and
devices such as VCRs and radios.
ignore putdowns by others because you will
work hard and be confident in what you
wages $4.25 to $22 per hr (plus benefits) Source:
Ferguson’s Guide to Apprenticeship Programs.
the field Electronic Engineer Technician
positions--women held 20.5%
Cable TV technician positions--women held
Source: Federal Communications
a Living! Career News for Girls