This Northern California plumber’s tenacity matches the company name through hard work, perseverance and a willingness to learn and to keep getting better at her craft.
Self-employed and co-owner of Bulldawg Plumbing, Red Bluff, Calif., Laura Nobert’s (@bulldawg_plumbing) real first experience in the trades was working for a few years in general construction with a company that did remodeling in San Francisco. “That job introduced me to power tools, jackhammers, sheetrock, etc. I started as a laborer and grunt and absolutely loved the challenge, and found the work incredibly fulfilling,” says Nobert.
Although Nobert is a first-generation tradesperson, she credits family first. “I had a twin sister who always had my back and supported and encouraged me no matter what my endeavors, successes or setbacks.”
One such setback—an unfortunate incident a bit later in her foray into the trades—Nobert had an industrial accident where she fell from a significant height and landed directly on her head. “The doctors said it was a miracle I wasn’t dead or paralyzed, but I definitely was injured and was pretty much in bed for three years,” says Nobert.
Shortly after recovering, Nobert made neon signs and worked with hot glass, which was fulfilling, creatively. “But when I got the opportunity to try plumbing, I jumped at the chance, both boots in. Luckily, the idea of learning such a valuable and challenging trade TOTALLY eclipsed my lifelong ‘poop fear.’”
For the past eight years she’s been killing it as a plumber working mainly service work and drain cleaning. “I love the satisfaction that comes from solving a complex mystery or the feeling that comes with overcoming extreme physical challenges to get the job done,” says Nobert.
Yet, being a woman in the trades has its share of funny looks—from others. “When I knock on a door, I almost ALWAYS get met with confused or incredulous looks. Sometimes people blurt out stuff like, ‘Is the real plumber still in the van?’ Or: ‘You’re the WHAT?!’”
A real facet of working in a male-dominated industry, Nobert feels like she is under a higher level of scrutiny than male counterparts. “I’ve noticed that when I work with men, people will automatically talk to them first or make comments like: ‘Oh, is she your sidekick?’ Some will laugh at the idea of me crawling under a house, because they think it’s a joke. Oh, and I worry that if I ever need to find another job, seeing a female name on my resume might keep companies from considering me.”
Being a mentor or trailblazer for other women to follow in the trades, Nobert never really stopped and considered it. But perhaps she is already. “I guess I’m more of a one-on-one kind of person because I usually just focus individually on the people I come in contact with. Like when I work for women who seem interested in the trade/tools/mechanics, I try to explain things, show them how things work, how to do it themselves, etc. More often, I encounter women who are intimidated and scared by the whole process. Often, it’s just because no one has ever explained or showed them how things work, so the topic is just a big, scary mystery. I have a lot of compassion for those women, so I try to help them feel more secure by explaining things—showing them how to shut off water and gas supplies, clean aerators, etc. I always tell them they can call me if they have questions or are nervous about anything.”
And the best advice she can give anyone, “I would tell any person wanting to enter the trades that the desire to learn and the willingness to work hard and not give up are traits that really make a difference.”
That willingness to learn is so critical. “I know that blue collar work used to be kind of an embarrassing career and that tradespeople were considered uneducated but I feel as though shows like Dirty Jobs have really helped to elevate the trades to new levels in the United States. Social media accounts—like Mechanical Hub—are continuing to make great strides in promoting the trades and sharing the knowledge so that important progress continues. I think that encouraging pride and respect for the trades definitely increases its appeal,” says Nobert.
In fact, social media has had a great influence on Nobert (@bulldawg_plumbing). “I am so grateful I found this community on Instagram because it’s made a huge difference in my life and career as a plumber. It’s given me the opportunity to learn so much more than I ever would have without it—seeing what other people achieve inspires me to keep learning and trying to improve my skills and abilities. There are just so many talented tradespeople on Instagram. I love how supportive people are towards each other and how they are willing to share their knowledge so freely. It’s amazing to have a place to share this passion with other people.”
In closing, the last time Nobert said it was a great day? “I was probably crawling out from under a house, hanging out with my daughter, or playing with my son.”
Oh, and the name Bulldawg? “I’ve had two bulldogs in my life; they are an impressive breed. They never give up, even when they are in pain, and I really admire that kind of heart and tenacity,” says Nobert.