Stephanie Tkaczuk: Women in Drywall

Stephanie Tkaczuk is the kind of person who would be successful at any kind of job she’d choose — she’s motivated, passionate about her work and speaks with authority.

Yet, despite that self-assuredness, it took time and a few wrong turns for Stephanie to find her way professionally. All she knew, early on, was that she wanted to be self-employed, collaborate with others and make a decent living. This desire led her down multiple roads, obtaining a degree in business administration and working as everything from a personal trainer to an organic farmer to a teacher for special-needs kids.

Finally, when Stephanie’s eventual husband, a tradesperson, convinced her to help out on a few drywall jobs, it took her down a path that would wind up creating a career she loved — one that checked all her boxes.

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‘Get out there and try different things’

Stephanie started in the trades doing drywall and painting, but has worked her way through several different construction trades. The key to Stephanie eventually finding her feet back in the finishing trades came when she and her husband designed and built their dream home. During this project, Stephanie used her combined experience in business and construction, and served as the project’s general contractor. This gave her a chance to manage and collaborate with every kind of trade involved in residential construction from top to bottom (while also doing a lot of the heavy lifting herself), observing which elements of the process spoke most to her.

These days, Stephanie has found her long-term calling; the business she co-owns, Level 5 Renovations & Finishing, specializes in bathroom renovation projects and tiling in the North Bruce Peninsula and Southwest Ontario. While not everyone will have the chance to build their own house, Stephanie does recommend that those who may be like her — trying to find your way in your career, unsure where you belong — should try to get real-world experience in as many trades as possible.

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“I would say to expose yourself to as many of the trades as possible to see what it is that you like, what it is that you're good at, and see where you may fit from there,” Stephanie told us. “In my experience, there's such a great overlapping of the various trades, you can sort of move laterally amongst them and gain experience in various trades and combine that into a business or career of your own, or you can specialize in one particular avenue — but just get out there and try different things and try to apprentice wherever you can. Just get some hands-on experience wherever you can.”

So, after all that bouncing around in different fields, what was it about the finishing trades that stuck out to Stephanie?

“It's physical work that is very cerebral as well,” she says. “It's really, really challenging and it involves such technical precision, but it's so artistic. You can flex different muscles in terms of creativity, but also the more technical side of things. It's really a unique and very challenging blend of so many different skillsets that you have to draw on.”

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Women in Drywall: ‘The sky's the limit, really, and there is no glass ceiling’

When speaking with Stephanie, she’s especially passionate when it comes to the subject of women in the trades. Stephanie’s not the first woman to struggle to find her place professionally, and won’t be the last. Widening the door into the trades can help women find their calling, like she did. And, as a result, women may be able to bring their own, new ideas into the mix to make the job better for everyone.

“I saw a huge opportunity for women to step into the trades, bringing their unique skill set and experience and their unique perspectives in a field where the sky's the limit, really, and there is no glass ceiling,” Stephanie tells us. “There are endless opportunities for collaboration and growth and learning, and it's incredibly empowering.”

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For Stephanie, the trades weren’t just some odd jobs she’d taken. They were the answer to the questions she’d been asking for a long time: where do I fit? Where can I take all the skills, all the life experiences, all the talents I’ve built, and use them for something positive? Where can I make something out of nothing, alongside people I respect, and make money doing it?

Stephanie hopes that, for other women out there who may be asking questions like these, her story — and the stories of all the other women thriving in the construction industry — shows the trades as a place full of possibilities.

“There's a place for women in the trades, and especially women who may not be sure of where they fit professionally. I really think that this world can tick off so many criteria, and be so incredibly rewarding — from an income standpoint, from autonomy and collaboration with others in the field … It's just so incredibly rewarding and inspiring to work in an industry that is collaborative, where others will support you, and where you just have so many opportunities to succeed.”

Women in Drywall

Women in Drywall

Meet the women changing the face of an industry.