Name: Lesley Joan McGlenen
Company: Pipe Wench Plumbing & Heating ltd.
Location: Scotch Creek, British Columbia, Canada
Specialty: Plumbing and Heating
When asked if she’d be on a scooter anytime soon, Lesley McGlenen (@thepipewench) says she’ll take a HARD PASS! “My favorite smoothie is a spinach, protein (double protein) yogurt, frozen blueberries and pineapple, and orange juice, and most definitely will not be having any more burger shakes,” says McGlenen.
Unless you’ve been living under an Instagram or social media rock, you probably have heard of that ill-fated scooter ride by now. McGlenen was heading back to the hotel from an evening’s festivities during the WWETT Show, and decided that jumping on a scooter was the fastest way to get back. Did I mention it was raining? “Unfortunately, I hit a bump in the alley as I was approaching a sidewalk and fell chin to curb,” says McGlenen.
Friend and fellow contractor friend Alan Carlson @alan_calrson was riding ahead and quickly doubled back, making the 911 call. The paramedics took Lesley by ambulance to the hospital. As Lesley went into emergency surgery, Alan was able to gather her things, and the next day take her back to the hotel post operation. Alan and Mary @theladyplumber stayed with Lesley that night and the next morning, and helped with rescheduling her flight home. “Alan was able to drive me to the airport and see me off. It was very comforting as I was traveling solo,” says McGlenen.
Lesley says she has come a long way since that rainy night in March; however, she still has quite a bit left to go. “The jaw is on the mend and getting more functional, wires are out, and I am able to chew soft foods and still on the smoothie train. Next appointment is June 1 where i’ll get another assessment of progress and then be able to get a better time line on dental reconstruction in the fall, or early of 2024,” says McGlenen.
Lesley started working as a laborer for her dad’s construction /development company, and worked there for about a year and half. “We were in-between projects and they had to lay me off, and the plumber offered me a job. I was on site for about 2-3 weeks and the apprentice officer came on site and suggested that I get indentured. I approached my employer with the paperwork and signed up as an apprentice, and scheduled my in-class portion for the following January,” says McGlenen.
Lesley continued to work for the same employer for nearly 11 years, then turned subcontractor after she passed her apprenticeship and received her Red Seal Journeyman Plumbing and Gasfitter B tickets. It was a smaller company that ran about 3-6 guys, and they did mostly commercial/residential developments. “With it being a small, tight crew with big projects, I had to learn quick and learn to be efficient,” says McGlenen.
How did Lesley know it was time to try to make the jump on her own? “I didn’t, lol, but I knew it was time to make the next move as I felt I was stagnant in pay and opportunity with the company I currently worked for,” says McGlenen.
“I had been working for my employer for quite a few years as an employee, and when we started the next big complex/development, I wanted to be able to make more money and have more of a challenge so I started subcontracting,” continues McGlenen.
From there, Lesley was able to take on small renos and service calls on her own in addition to those projects, and when they slowed down, she had set up a decent network to be able to pick up projects on her own, and from other plumbers in town from which to subcontract. “By doing so, I was not putting all my eggs in one basket.” Lesley has been on her own since September 2012.
Labor of Love
McGlenen says she loves the freedom and variety that the trades offer daily, weekly, monthly, and year by year. “Everything is changing and innovating within the industry. At the same time, you are using old school practices that you will carry throughout, in addition to all the new technologies and advancements.”
Over these past 2 1/2 years, McGlenen has been primarily building Bob’s (her dad’s) and her mom’s retirement home. The skills Lesley has learned from her father—from building this house starting from the foundation all the way up to doing the metal standing seam roofing—has been immeasurable. “I will carry these lessons, along with the memories of building a house with my 72-year-old father, long into my future endeavors,” says McGlenen.
Yet, with any job, there are some drawbacks. For Lesley, it is very mentally and physically demanding, “so what I have learned during this current injury is that there will always be work in the future. Learning my limits and staying within it so I do not over work/overrun myself is key. This can happen unexpectedly, considering I find myself being a ‘yes’ person; it is ok to step back and say ‘no.’”
And with the years of experience in the trades and the experience owning and operating her own business, McGlenen has had her fair share of learning opportunities. By sharing her experiences with up-and-coming apprentices and other colleagues, which can be used as a tool to be emulated in their practices to become better, more efficient, successful human beings, McGlenen definitely considers herself a mentor.
What’s so interesting about Lesley is, well, anything she puts her mind to. She is creative, funny, smart, and has the ability to laugh at herself when the chips are down. See scooter story above. She has said about that moment was that she could have sulked and felt sorry about herself and asked “why me?” or realized what’s done is done and plan for the future.
Back in the early stages of COVID, the “Sharpie Doodles” came about. “I was stuck at home, along with the rest of the world, and over-consuming some beverages one night, and a friend sent a meme about not drinking alone,” explains McGlenen. “It was on someone’s legs with the worst drawing of a smiley faces showing ‘it’s not drinking alone if you have your buddies with you.’ So, I proceeded to grab my sharpies, threw on some Rolling Stones and got to drawing. Then it just became a thing every-so-often, grab a few ‘pops’ and the sharpies as a way to cut loose to decompress from stress while doing something fun an creative.
“I have been told by my aunt Sheelagh that I should really try an just stick to paper, but what fun is that?! I have done a few others since—Alan Carlson, Bob Baker, Bob Boilercrew, Plumb Bob Rob and my main man FRED. “Next up ….. TBD,” says McGlenen.
When it comes to free time, “I love to golf and spend with friends/family. In the summer, I love to grab a cold bevy and a book, some tunes and float on the lake.
“In the winter I love to do puzzles, listen to podcasts, go on odd snowboard trips, and travel to warmer destinations to golf,” says McGlenen.
Golf has been one constant free-time activity. Lesley grew up with her my mom, dad and grandparents as avid golfers. “I golfed when I was little and I am pretty sure my dad wanted me to be on the LPGA, but I was not interested as a pre-teen,” says McGlenen. “However, as I grew out of my teenage years and moved out of town, I found golf was a good way to meet other women and make connections for business. I joined the local ladies’ leagues and started golfing regularly and made a good crew of friends.”
Since moving three years ago, Lesely had planned a weekend for her friends to come down to see the house, golf and tour the new area, so she figured she should plan a golf tournament—the G-Dammnn Golf Tournament (GDGT) for the babes. “It’s vibe is a fun interactive atmosphere for all skill levels where women can feel confident to come out to a tournament with their friends, make new friends and have a great time while supporting other women. A portion of the proceeds are being donated this year to the Women in Trades program at the Okanagan College, for which I mentor,” says McGlenen.
Lesley feels it’s important to encourage women and to show them that they have plenty of opportunities within the trades to provide a financially secure future for themselves and their families. She is still accepting registrations for the event up until June 1 or until it sells out. The event is being held June 10th at Talking Rock Golf Course, Little Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, Canada. You can find more details at www.babesgdgt.ca, and she is also actively accepting sponsorships and donations toward the event and the Women in Trades program.
What’s one thing people may not know about McGlenen? “I like to sew,” she says. “I was in a textiles class in high school, a fancy word for sewing class, and originally wanted to be a home economics teacher. My grandma sewed and I got into sewing as a child and loved making my own clothes, even made a pair of my own golf capris. I would make pajama pants and sell them to the neighborhood kids. The most recent items I have sewed for myself are bathing suits.”