The Awesome Awards - Nominations

Tamara Pongracz

Nominated by Denise Berg
November 14, 2013
Tamara’s journey started from graduating high school in the Kootenay’s and then taking a year off to work at a series of “typical girl jobs.”  She waited on tables, worked retail, and took care of kids in a daycare.   When the year was up, her dad, a plumber/pipefitter, told her it was time to get serious and head off to university.  Meantime, he got her a summer job where he worked as a foreman.  She worked as a welder’s helper.  The pay is what sold her and her life changed forever.
Tamara went on to become a certified plumber, and worked 10 years in the business before becoming the Chief Instructor in the Trades Discovery for Women program at B.C. Institute of Technology.  Women make up only about three to four per cent of all tradespeople in Canada and Tamara is one who keeps track of women in the trades as well as her past graduates of the program.  She is on top of the current events, gets her media time in to promote the program and to promote women in trades everywhere.   Tamara has attended numerous events to stay on top of current events in various industries, not just plumbing related ones.
In 1998 I took the Women in Trades and Technology as it was called in 1998, and Tamara was my plumbing instructor.  She was an awesome teacher with a lot of patience, understanding and a true passion for her industry and what she had learned.   Not only did we learn about the trade itself but also as a tradeswoman she helped us understand the breaking of stereotypes of “not being strong enough, just looking for a husband or they must be gay to be in trades”.   She always stressed that if you are a good employee the employer will see your strengths and find a place for you to fit in.
5 years after being in the Aviation trade, she asked if I would like to teach in the Trades Discovery Program.  As I had just been laid off and enrolled in a BCIT program, I said yes without even thinking about it.  I have been an Instructor in the Trades Discovery Program since 2004.  Tamara has been a mentor, a boss and a friend throughout my time at BCIT.  She is always prompting her staff to do their best, make improvements, develop curriculum and teach things that we think the students would like to learn.  She has never been a micro-manager and always has an open-door policy.   Her work ethic is an inspiration to anyone who thinks that there isn’t enough time to do everything as she not only is the Chief Instructor, she teaches, has completed her masters while working full time and attends as many events as she can to promote trades.   She has compassion for all students, in particular those who are struggling and help them come to the best conclusion for them to continue or move onto something better suited to them.  I know how awesome she is because I am privileged to see her in action on a daily basis.
Tamara so deserves the AWESOMENESS award.