GEN NXT: Sadat Gutierrez

Words:

Words: MASONRY Magazine 
Photos: Sadat Gutierrez 

Editor’s Note: In this month’s GEN NXT interview, we had the opportunity to sit down with Sadat Gutierrez. Sadat is currently interning with SpawGlass in Harlingen, Texas, and is enrolled in college part-time. She has been immersed in the masonry industry since her introduction in high school. We’d like to thank Sadat for taking the time to talk with us, and JagClamp for sponsoring this series. 

MASONRY Magazine: Tell us a little bit of yourself. 

Sadat Gutierrez: My name is Sadat Gutierrez. I am 20, and I live in Harlingen, Texas. I am currently going part-time in college and, because of my construction internship, I am an intern at SpawGlass. 

M.M.: How did you get into the industry?

S.G.: I got my start in the industry when I was a sophomore in high school, and it was by chance. I never really thought of being a mason because I didn't even know what masonry was before I got into the class. It was just an elective, kind of like a reject class, sort of an “everything else is taken up, so we're going to put you in this class, just for the credit.” It just started like that. I didn't know what it was until my teacher, Mr. Santillan, told us, “Hey, this is a hands-on class. We're going to start laying bricks today.” My response was thinking, “Laying bricks would be cool; let’s see what this is about.” I got the hang of it pretty quick. He would teach us how to level out of the break, check the plumb, check the height, and teach us all the basic tools needed for masonry. I just took off with it, I enjoyed it, and I was super competitive — I still am. 

But there's not a lot of people who know about masonry. So when I meet somebody who knows about it or who works in the industry, I get super excited. Mr. Santillan was an awesome teacher. He would allow anybody to start laying bricks. The best in his class were females, and they are still my best friends. We would all compete against each other. Two of my best friends, Savanna, Anyssa, and I would just compete against each other, comparing whose plumb was better or whose project looked cleaner.

It was so fun, we're super competitive, and we had a blast together in that class. As a sophomore, I loved the class, and I wanted to join the following year, taking the class all year round. Mr. Santillan said “No problem.” So, in my junior year, I built bigger projects than what I’d done in my sophomore year. In my sophomore year, I built about six projects that required six or ten bricks, nothing big. Then we started going at the blocks, and it was awesome. I kept learning new things about masonry, and I loved it. My teacher then introduced us to SkillsUSA, and I’m a very competitive person, so I said, “A masonry competition? Sign me up!” So it started at a district level, and then you would go to State, and you would compete against other mason students in Texas. 

If you win State, you could compete at Nationals against everybody who took first in their state. They have competitions in New York, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Alabama. I competed in my senior year. I was competing against the best of the best nationwide at Nationals. Practicing masonry was awesome. I placed sixth at Nationals, so I was the sixth-best mason, especially for a girl. I thought that was pretty awesome: taking like sixth and seeing all these other girls doing masonry or doing any kind of construction. I just felt cool about it. It was awesome, and my teacher was super proud of me. He loves talking about his student who took sixth place at Nationals and who won State. He's just really proud of me, and I'm proud of myself, too. I was able to talk to different contractors, masonry companies, different construction companies, and I was able to become an intern at SpawGlass, all because of masonry. I love it so far. 

M.M.: You mentioned projects. Can you tell us a little bit more about some projects that you've been involved in or some that you've worked on?

S.G.: I have a few projects out there. I did this mailbox with my teacher made out of stone, with this cool Texas stone in its middle. It was just a remodel because somebody ran it over with a truck, and it was demolished. So, my teacher called and told me there's a mailbox for you to build to make. It was one of the first mailboxes I've ever done, and it was a great side-job because who doesn't want a brick mailbox? My State project as a senior was a double-wall connecting with block and brick. It was really interesting and kind of hard, but that was the project that I did, and I won first place in Texas with it. It was about, let me see, about 80 to 90 bricks, and with about six, eight-inch blocks, and four or two, four-inch blocks. That was one of my favorites, for sure.

One of my parents gave me so much confidence in myself and my skills because I didn't think I would win. That year, the returning champ from 2018 was competing, and 2019 was the year I won. So I was super nervous. Everybody was betting on him to win, and he's just an amazing mason. So I was pretty iffy about myself. But after winning that, I had a lot of confidence in myself to do the very best I can and put everything into anything I do. Another project would have to be my remodeling job in Bishop, Texas. It was my first brick job working with SpawGlass as an intern. They told me one of their masons needed an apprentice helper in Bishop. 

It was just replacing windows with bricks — they took out about five windows — and we had to remove any old mortar. Then we had to cut the bricks into bats, and just laying them was pretty easy. It was just a simple project, but it was one of my first projects where I had an opportunity to work and I didn't want to disappoint anybody; I didn't want to make any mistakes. The mason that was helping me or I was helping was super friendly. He was showing me little things to do, and the project was at a police station. It was super nice and really interesting. I never worked on a building like that. 

My top favorite is the most recent project I made. It was remodeling an elementary school. They wanted to do a layout of a block wall high. I had to get on the scaffold. It was so tall, and it was my first time working with rebar with blocks. I worked with the same mason that I worked with before on my first project with SpawGlass. They wanted the blocks to go over the ceilings about 10 inches, and then we had to fill it up with cement so that it could be bulletproof. It took us about four or five days to finish because it was just a tall block wall, and it did have a few brick installations on the side for the receptionist office where the window was prior. So, that was interesting. This project tested my strength. I thought I was strong, but oh my gosh, I had to lift the block over my head and lay it down and make sure that the mortar was still intact, that I didn't just hit the mortar and splash all around because then the block would be super leveled. 

M.M.: So, where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

S.G.: Five to 10 years from now, I see myself being a project manager, assistant superintendent, or assistant project manager. Everything I'm learning right now will help me in five to 10 years to be in the position I want to be. I would love to be a project manager. My class has taught me so much that would help me right now in what I'm doing. I just love working and learning all about that. I do see myself with the company I'm with now. So I'm so excited to keep on working with them because they're just an amazing company.

M.M.: What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the masonry industry?

S.G.: Do it. It's so awesome. If you're a hands-on person, it's so awesome. You get to do it, and nobody can take your skill away from you. Once you learn that skill or any other skill, any other trade skill, you will have that forever, and you can pass on that knowledge to whoever wants to learn it. I think that's just like an awesome and beautiful concept that nobody can take away what you learned in that trade. You can always advance. You can never really regress the trade. You can always leave your mark on anything you do. But it applies to any other trade in the construction field, especially since it's a pretty high-paying job if you're in it for the money. That's awesome because, like, starting, it's $15 to $25, or even more. Absolutely 110% do it. I know many people who don't want to work 9-to-5 office hours. They just want to be out working and doing projects. The trades are super awesome because you just can do your things. You can learn other trades, too, and could probably build your own house. You don't have to rely on anyone because you already know that skill — I love that concept: knowing that I will always see the mystery. I will always keep learning about masonry, too. I would advise everybody to learn a trade, whether it’s masonry or anything else, just learn. There’s always going to be a demand. Everybody will be demanding these jobs and these trades because construction is growing. Society is growing, and we just need those workers. 

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