Employee Spotlight: Teresa Wilson, Projects Maintenance Supervisor
It's Women's History Month, and as a female electrician and supervisor in a male-dominated field, Teresa Wilson has a great story to share.
From her roots on Long Island to the shores of the Gulf Coast, Teresa Wilson's career has been a buzz of activity.
Now, as TPA's Projects Maintenance Supervisor, Teresa brings a wealth of experience in the electrical world and a can-do attitude to the job. It's what has elevated her to being the only female supervisor on TPA's large Maintenance team, and a wonderful one at that.
Her work ethic is also a reflection of the curiosity and constant hands-on activities that she's loved since she was a child.
Growing up on Long Island, Teresa was always "outdoorsy and outgoing,” she said.
“My Barbies were filthy!" she laughed. "I was all about being playful and was never afraid to get a little muddy.”
When Teresa was in high school, she began considering her next step after graduation. Craving a challenge, she worked as a nurse's aide for seven years, but knew that the next rung of the ladder – being a nurse – was not her destiny.
She began exploring new ideas, and someone she knew who was experienced in trade jobs recommended the electrical field. She decided to try it, and while she knew nothing about it going into the field, she enjoyed immediately learning on the job. Within the first few months, Teresa was already wiring homes.
“I eventually applied for an electrical union in New York where I began to learn about the theory behind the field," she said. "Finally, something just clicked with me. I was able to put two and two together: the hands-on, practical side of the work and the theory behind it. It felt like magic!”
Teresa eventually decided to pursue a Master Electrician License, a prerequisite to owning an electrician business and a very involved process that ends with a difficult exam.
“I’ve always hated taking tests," she said. “After doing a lot of preparing, I decided to go for it and somehow, I scored a 98 out of 100.”
After completing the exam, the professor pulled Teresa aside and told her that in the history of him proctoring that test, she was one of the only students to score that high.
"I went in for that exam feeling really nervous and walked away with my head held high,” she said.
Teresa owned her own electrical contracting business for several years before joining the Long Island Rail Road where she took on work repairing substations, which have a very high direct current and can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands."
“We would close the tracks and then take the substation offline before we started maintenance on it,” she said. "We had to be super careful while on the job because the voltage there wasn't very forgiving, if you know what I mean!”
Eventually, Teresa decided to make a big life change and she moved to Florida seven years ago.
“When I was looking for a job in the Tampa area, I went after a few other positions," she said. "But when I learned about the role at the Airport, it just felt right.”
Little did Teresa know she would eventually meet her future husband while working at TPA.
“I guess you could call it an airport love story," she said.
A fellow Maintenance employee named Jesse, who worked an opposite shift from Teresa, was sitting at her table at an employee event when the song “Jessie's Girl” began playing over the speakers. Some coworkers at the table pointed at Teresa and Jesse, joking that they'd get together.
“We both just laughed it off, until we didn't,” she said. "We eventually started talking a lot and found out we wanted the same things. The conversation just flowed naturally, so it didn't take long for us to get closer. From there, we just rolled with it, dated, and married a few years ago."
Teresa said that she loves working for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority – which owns and operates TPA and three general aviation airports – because it feels like a welcoming environment. She never feels hassled or subject to crude jokes as a woman in the maintenance field, she said, and she's impressed by the organization's efforts to be inclusive and open to employee feedback.
“It's just a comfort to see that efforts are being made to create a work environment that is healthy,” she said. ”It can be a bit tough juggling all of our responsibilities at times, but I love my coworkers. The people here at TPA make all the difference. I'm protective of my team and want the best for them."
When Teresa isn't at work, you can find her fishing or going on adventures with her husband.
“I love to go out and explore a place, fishing for a day and enjoying the quiet together,” Teresa said. “My favorite place fishing has been in Key West where you eat what you catch.”
Teresa has several things on her bucket list, including going on a European tour and spending time RVing.
“I'd love to just hop in an RV and drive all over the US," she said. "It's a dream of mine to drive somewhere dark enough to see the Milky Way. I really enjoy going places that are remote and quiet.”
When asked about one piece of advice Teresa would give someone interested in working in her field, she emphasized the importance of learning.
“Get involved in an apprenticeship or program that teaches you the theory behind the work you're doing hands-on,” she said. "There's just something amazing when you can bring together the theory behind what you're doing and the practical application.”