Kristi Blaser’s lifelong connection with the skilled trades runs deep. Her dad was a pipeliner, and at three years old, she would sit on a bulldozer eating lunch with him and wearing his hardhat. It all came full circle this past year when they started working on the same line together. “He worked 47 years, and we were able to spend his last year and my first year on the same line. I couldn’t have started in a better position than right beside him,” she says.
She’s certainly no stranger to working with her hands. She grew up on a farm in Minnesota, got her degree in nursing, and then raised three kids as a stay at home mom. Once her kids were a little older, she started designing and managing workforce development programs for the state and Tribal Nations, as her family is a member of The White Earth Nation. For the next 25 years, Kristi helped people find jobs in the trade industry, “but I never thought about it for myself.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and there were talks of potential lay-offs, Kristi realized it was time to practice what she preached. “I went from a dress job to steel-toed boots,” she says. “I just wish I would’ve done it sooner.”
The transition didn’t come without some apprehension though. “I was scared of how I would be accepted,” she says. Acceptance is key on a crew because of the safety issues, but especially in her role as an inspector. “It’s a trust thing,” she explains. “They know who you are when you get to the site and I don’t want to come across as intimidating.”
As an environmental inspector, Kristi’s job is to make sure natural resources are protected when the pipe goes into the ground. She checks soil segregation, water filtration systems, and vegetation. “We make sure our right of way is well vegetated and that everything is back in place to where it was or even better,” she says. If there’s a storm, she and her crew have to be out within 24 hours to inspect the entire line.
Though she’s the only woman on her crew, Kristi says she’s experienced no issues with acceptance in the field when it comes to her title, her gender, or her age. “I have received the utmost respect and professionalism.” Earning that respect comes down to building both relationships and a reputation for hard work.
It’s a collaborative effort between men and women that has boosted this industry. There are very capable individual women who can do a man’s job.Kristi B.
She encourages other women to give the skilled trades a shot, because the stereotype of the domineering male role models within the field are “not the case anymore.” That doesn’t mean the job—which requires constant skill development and working long hours in the elements—is easy. “It’s important how you carry yourself. That has to do with your own professionalism, motivation and drive. Are you going to fail? Yes, and then you regroup,” Kristi says. “If I set my priorities, I will achieve them.”
She’s excited to continue her career growth, and hopes to add coating and welding inspection to her repertoire, so she can be more well-rounded. She’s also excited to incorporate her love of traveling into her work with Workrise. She recently bought a motor home which she can use for future jobs, and also to visit her kids. “My youngest son lives near Lake Havasu and that’s where I like to spend my time. That’s my sanctuary.”
Hiking with her son in Arizona, camping, deer hunting, and fishing are all a big part of Kristi’s down time. “It’s the little things in life when you get to be older, it’s simplicity, it’s giving yourself time to appreciate what you have and worked so hard for,” she says.
“So many individuals start, but stop because it’s tough work. It’s long days, but the benefits pay off in the future for me and my granddaughter’s generation.”