scorecardI went to pre-med school, wanting to be a surgeon. I became an electrician instead and have no regrets.
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I went to pre-med school, wanting to be a surgeon. I became an electrician instead and have no regrets.

Ella Hopkins   

I went to pre-med school, wanting to be a surgeon. I became an electrician instead and have no regrets.
Careers3 min read
  • Lexis Czumak-Abreu started doing engineering jobs on the side while studying pre-med in college.
  • She told Business Insider she enjoyed the problem-solving and physical elements of the job.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lexis Czumak-Abreu, a 27-year-old electrician in New York state. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I became interested in medicine because my mom is a physician assistant. I studied pre-med in school, intending to become a surgeon. But now I work as an electrician.

It's extremely rewarding. At the end of a job, you can turn the electricity on and see the whole system work right in front of you.

I grew up around electricians. Several of my male family members, including my dad, are electricians. I did an apprenticeship with an electrician company in 2015 and kept up electrician jobs on the side when I needed money for my family.

I'd work between 20 and 25 hours a week as an electrician. It was second nature to me.

I wanted to become a surgeon but changed my mind

In school, I chose to specialize in phlebotomy to get my foot in the door. But I had to work in a hospital drawing people's blood all day. I hated it.

I thought: "I'm not a people person. I'm not meant to be here."

While at college, I got several personal-trainer certifications and worked as a trainer on the side. But again, it didn't work for me. I'm good at speaking with people, but I'm quite antisocial. I like to work alone.

I kept up some electrical work on the side, too. I finished my degree with an associate in pre-med in 2019 but decided not to continue in medicine.

I became a full-time electrician instead of continuing in medicine

I could no longer work as a personal trainer under the COVID-19 restrictions. Electricians were considered essential workers. I couldn't just stay unemployed, so I started working as an electrician full time.

I'd go on jobs solo, including running my own jobs, or with another person. Once the pandemic was over, I realized I wanted to keep doing it.

No 2 days are the same

I work 40 hours a week. My shifts are normal 9-to-5 working hours, but sometimes our hours change. We get told in advance, though.

Unlike in an office job where you go to the same building daily, I work somewhere different every day. I experience different things and see different people every day.

When a job is finished, I feel a sense of accomplishment and closure. I finish it and move on to another. It doesn't feel like one long job forever.

There are challenges and dangers

I've gotten small electrical shocks, but that comes with the job. I've been shocked by an outlet before. That sure woke me up.

Early in my career, I was shocked when I accidentally put my hand on a panel. Someone else had to pull me off it. I was slightly shaken, but it made me much more cautious.

I've never been seriously injured. When working with more dangerous equipment, you wear more protective equipment.

It's physically demanding

The more experienced you get, the higher the voltage you can work with — you need to be experienced to work with deadly voltage. I mainly do commercial jobs now, such as pole lighting or utility generators for towns or businesses, though I still sometimes do work in people's homes.

I prefer commercial work, but it can be tricky to troubleshoot and solve a problem when it's something I've never learned. Moving heavy copper wire and big pipes can be labor-intensive work.

I have to train in the gym to keep up with the men in the industry. Handling heavy equipment that is double my body weight can be more taxing on my body than theirs. There are days when I come home exhausted, but it's better than a repetitive office job.

I've experienced sexism

I mostly work on my own.

Sometimes, when running jobs, I feel like people aren't taking me seriously. I haven't had many negative comments, but I can sometimes tell from people's body language that they're uncomfortable.

The worst was an older lady who asked my company whether a male colleague could replace me. It used to upset me, but I don't take that stuff too seriously anymore. I know some people just aren't used to a person like me doing this job.

Once they see my work, there's no issue. Most people in the upstate-New York area where I work know me now anyway.

I'm glad I became an electrician

I'm glad I gave myself the opportunity to try other career paths and learn they're not for me.

I'm happy where I am and excited to move into working with even higher voltage.