From the Army to MARTA – a Safety calling

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Sade Safety Consultant

How Sade Taylor found her unique calling in Workplace Safety & Health.

Sade Taylor has been working in the safety industry now for over decade. However, this was not the career path the current MARTA Systems Safety Coordinator had in mind. Read Sade’s story about her career path and why she thinks representation of women in construction is important.

Taylor started her journey while she was in the Army and stationed at Fort Gillum working in industrial hygiene. She did not think this field would end up being her future career, but Mandan Fuller, Certified Industrial Hygienist told her she had a niche for EHS and gave her a Georgia Tech OSHA course catalog. In 2011 Taylor signed up for her first course, the OSHA 521 Introduction to Industrial Hygiene. After she completed the course she said, “This is what I want to do, this is how I can see myself making an impact on people’s lives.”

Since taking that first OSHA 521 course, Taylor has taken 12 more OSHA trainings at Georgia Tech. She recommends these to anyone looking to further their career in safety. Taylor says the resources provided by the instructors are invaluable and she utilizes them on a regular basis. “It makes me confident in my job. If I do not know something I know where I can find the answer.”  She also says the instructors are what keeps her coming back to Tech. “The instructors are effective because they make it realistic. The thing I like about the classes at Tech is the open discussion within the whole class. We learn from the instructors and from each other.”

When asked about why it is important for women to be in the construction industry, Taylor discusses how women are not represented in what is known as a “male dominated industry.” “Most of the time when you go to a construction site you may be the only woman there. We can get overlooked until we display our skillsets and knowledge, then you earn that respect as a safety professional.” Taylor is a mom of two boys, ages two and ten and says “it is important for her to show them that representation and that a women’s perspective should be valued and appreciated.”

Taylor stresses the impact of leading by example for the future. “It is important to show the women coming in behind us that they can do it too. You do not have to be boxed into certain positions because you are a woman. You can get out here and put on your steel toes! You know, we have kids, a home to take care of, laundry, chauffeuring to football practices, all that good stuff, but you can still get out here. Yes, you have to pick up the kids at four but at two, you are on the construction site reviewing a JHA. Women wear so many hats on a regular basis, and we know how to put them on and take them off, that is one thing I can appreciate about us women!”

Taylor has advice for others on how they can achieve the success she has had so far. “Know your reasons of why you want to do something. For me, it is the impact I can have on people to represent women in safety. Learn as much as you can, ask questions and maintain a sense of humor. Things will not always go as planned, but that does not mean they won’t turn out well. Learn from your co-workers, there is an abundance of knowledge around me, and trust me, I utilize it all! I have found my greatest resource is my team.”

“Enjoy it, I enjoy every bit of what I do, the different people I meet, the connections and networking. I truly have a passion for it all.”


Women in Construction: The Value of Mentorship

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Picture of woman in construction safety attire

How two female health and safety professionals used mentorship to hone their skills and abilities in a male-dominated profession

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) field, like many STEM-based fields, is an energy-intensive industry that requires quick decision-making, continuous problem-solving, and tireless people-pleasing. Without regular intellectual and emotional support from colleagues and coworkers, it’s easy to lose focus and purpose.

For women, who comprise a minority of those in the industry, mutual support for one another is all the more important — and challenging — to find. When Julie Brown, safety manager for Choate Construction in Atlanta, met Pam Fisher, course director for the OSHA Training Institute Education Center and adjunct faculty member for Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), on a construction project nearly six years ago, she immediately noticed and admired Pam’s confidence and assertiveness — qualities she knew were essential for women to thrive in such a competitive industry.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This lady is a firecracker,’” recalled Julie. “She doesn’t give these guys any slack. I want to be like that.”

Julie, having worked in medicine for 25 years prior, had transitioned into the safety and health field. While she was equipped with a unique set of skills and knowledge about safety practices, this new project was dense and difficult, with many barriers and moving parts. It was also one of the first project sites where there was a female safety professional.

“At the time, Pam was one of the only ones on site regularly who was female, and she had such a presence,” said Julie. “She took command, and she didn’t give them any slack. And that’s sometimes what you have to do.”

Pam also had experience as a registered nurse, but she had spent much more time in the safety field. Over time, she had learned how to navigate the industry, but she explained that the “confidence” needed for success often is more about appearance than what you are feeling.

“People tell me, you always come across so strong and confident,” she described. “But I never think that I am.”

Both Pam and Julie have learned that your outward appearance is directly related to your survival in the industry — fear, timidness, and deference won’t get you very far. That’s why it’s important to find a support system of friends, especially females, to rely on for advice and encouragement.

Ever since their first meeting, Pam and Julie have become good friends, and their mentorship has supported both of them in different ways. Julie has relied on Pam for advice about the industry and how to navigate it as a female, while Pam has been inspired by Julie’s enthusiasm and the way that she and other women like her have continued to push beyond their limits. “So many times,” Pam explained, “These young women have surprised me because they will say, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And I would think to myself, ‘That will never work.’ But then they make it happen.”

Julie credits these achievements in a large part to Pam, saying that she and other women like her would not have the ability to keep pushing forward were it not for the way that Pam and other female mentors have pioneered before them. “If we didn’t have the base knowledge coming from mentors like Pam, we wouldn’t be able to go as far as we have gone,” Julie said.

Even though they don’t work on the same project site anymore, Pam and Julie still find time to connect with each other to offer support and guidance. Due to their busy work schedules, they don’t have a regular meeting time; however, they both feel that they can call each other at any time. “I have never doubted that I could call Pam at any point with a question, and she can do the same with me,” Julie said.

Additionally, Pam emphasized the value of participating in formal or informal professional support groups. Committing to a group with a regularly scheduled meeting time keeps you accountable to balance working with learning. Pam referenced Georgia Tech Professional Education as an excellent resource for such learning accountability. Through its professional education programs, Georgia Tech provides a valuable community with opportunities for networking and mentoring. “One important reason for folks to come to Georgia Tech is not just to get training,” Pam explained, “but also for the networking and the mentoring relationship.”

Picture of instructor

Julie experienced this community firsthand when she participated in and completed the Construction Safety and Health certificate program at GTPE in 2021. She was motivated to enroll in the program because she had discovered her passion for occupational safety and health and wanted to continue developing her knowledge and skills. “I found that this is what I love to do,” she said. “When you get a passion for something, you pursue it.”

Julie loved her learning experience at GTPE and appreciated its affordability and practicality. The short-term courses were manageable and consistent, and the instructors helped her understand new perspectives and aspects of the industry that she had never considered before. Now, Julie is even more enthusiastic about continuing her professional learning journey. “I want to be a lifetime learner,” she said.

When Pam began her career in the safety and health industry, there were no other women there with her. Now, even though more women have entered the field, it’s still easy to feel alone and unsupported. There are still barriers for women in occupational safety, and they need to stick together to build each other up and push each other forward. “We need each other, and we need support,” Pam said.

Mentorships like Julie’s and Pam’s are vital for women to help each other thrive in the workplace. “A mentor to me is someone who has not only the knowledge but the wisdom to guide you,” Julie said. “They give you strong reassurance and confidence in the decisions you’ve made.”

Click here to read more career highlights, advice, and stories from the GTPE women shaking up the STEM industry.