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CrazyFruits » African/Caribbean/UK/GeneralDiscussions » Julian Frances a lady and a Linesman

Julian Frances a lady and a Linesman

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1OH Julian Frances a lady and a Linesman on Thu 3 Oct 2013 - 4:31


HER job literally sees her putting her life on the line daily, but Julian Francis can’t help her affinity for heights and she doesn’t mind being the only female among a group of men as she deftly climbs light poles and gets busy to help restore electricity to homes and businesses in the scorching sun or the drizzling rain.
The 35-year-old mother of two is a member of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) crew, and is currently the only female linesman in the Caribbean region. Even after 18 years in the field, she is still enlivened by the prospects or working on high voltage wires and climbing light poles as high as 80 feet tall to rectify electrical problems being experienced by customers.

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“I like challenges. I like to stop and think — you know, like how do I stop this problem, and try to figure it out,” she said.
During her earlier years, Francis wanted to become a soldier, but that desire was quashed by the time she was 15 years old. Her change of heart was due to her fascination with the linesmen she saw regularly working in her community as she made her way to and from school.
“While going home in the afternoons I would see the guys in the area changing defective poles, stringing the conductors, and it was just so amazing to me and I would stand there and watch them and I said, OK, I would like to become a linesperson,” said Francis who grew up in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine.
After leaving primary school, she signed up to do electrical installation at the HEART Trust/NTA and upon leaving the institution, approached one of the contractors in her community, Adolphus Campbell, for a job.
“I went to him and asked him if I could learn the trade with him and he laughed and asked me if I was serious and I said, ‘Yes, I want to become a lineperson’, and he said, ‘Okay, come in Monday morning’. I went in Monday morning in January 1993, I’ll never forget,” recounted Francis who was only 16 at the time.
“When I went in and he saw me, he said, ‘You are here’. And I was like, ‘Yes, I am’. He asked me if I wanted to become the foreperson to write down stuff, and I said, ‘No, I want to be a linesperson. I want to ride on the back of the truck, I want to learn how to dig the holes, set the poles, string conductors, I just want to know the whole concept and understand everything that you guys do during the days,” she said.
Campbell, who was murdered at his business place earlier this year, took her under his wing and taught her everything she needed to know about the job. She worked with him for four years.
“Within a year, he told me that if he had 10 ladies like me, he would chase away all the men, because he just couldn’t believe I grasped it so fast,” she said.
Francis then applied to the JPS in 1998 and was at first taken on as a casual worker until she was eventually given a permanent position.
“When I was to go to JPS, there were doubts, because people had doubts about whether I would make it in the field, but once I got into training and once I graduated, everyone was surprised,” she told All Woman.
Although there is the risk of electrocution, the linesworker says she is never fearful because she adheres to the strict safety regulations that guide her profession. But her job does demand a lot of her time and can get hectic at times, especially after an earthquake or during the hurricane season when adverse weather patterns result in power outages. She said that sometimes the crew works as long as 23 hours during these times, just to ensure that electricity is restored.
“What we do is to come out six o’clock in the mornings, meet at the office, and the supervisors says which section we are doing for the day and we leave out by X time and we finish work by say 11 o’clock in the night, sometimes we go up to two o’clock in the morning and you try to go home and get some sleep and then you are back at it again,” she explained.
One of the most demanding times for her, she recalled, was after the passage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, because she had to travel around the island to help restore electricity to facilities such as police stations, hospitals, business places and homes. She was then sent as part of a crew to Grenada shortly after to carry out similar operations in that island as they tried to recover from the damage Ivan caused there.
Despite the demands of her job, Francis was able to complete a preengineering course at JPS, and then went on achieve her associate degree in industrial engineering at the Caribbean Maritime Institute. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s at the institution and has plans to do a master’s in safety and occupation so that she can go into teaching sometime in the future.
Although she has been encouraged to seek a more supervisory post at the light and power company, Francis does not have any such ambition right now, because she doesn’t want to be taken off the front line. She takes pleasure in interacting with people and lists this as being the highlight of her career thus far, although she does get her fair share of disgruntled customers. Thankfully for her, her 17-year-old daughter Amarsha and her son Sebastian, five, are very supportive and take every opportunity to boast about their mom, although her partner, who is a police corporal, worries about her safety.
Francis is currently preparing to represent Jamaica at the 30th annual International Lineman’s Rodeo and Expo, which is to take place next month in Bonner Springs, Kansas. This will be her sixth time going to the competition, but her second time as a journey person which is the ranking given to those at the highest level of her profession. Prior to this she represented Jamaica in the apprenticeship category and for most of this time, enjoyed the title of being the only female entrant in the entire competition which attracts lineworkers from around the world.
“I think it was my fourth year as an apprentice when I went up and I had completed all my events, and this girl came up to me and said, ‘You know, I saw you on a video and it inspired me to come here today and compete’, so I was the only one there every year until she came,” Francis said.
Francis said she would love to see more women entering the profession and is happy that at least two of her sisters are training to become lineworkers too.
“There is nothing to fear. Just apply yourself, but if you don’t love it, don’t do it; you have to have a passion,” she said.

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