Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Natltaly Razo, NCMCA
Editor’s Note: This month we had the opportunity to talk with former Butch Hardy Memorial Masonry Competition winner Natltaly Razo. Natltaly is currently a Brick Apprentice with Brodie Contractors Inc. in Raleigh, NC, and is excited for what the future has in store for her. We would like to thank Natltaly for taking the time to chat with us, and JagClamp for continuing to sponsor this series.
Masonry Magazine: To get started, why don’t you tell us about yourself?
Natltaly Razo: Well, I’m 21 years old, and I’m Hispanic. I first started masonry when I was in high school, freshman year. My cousin was like, “hey, you should totally take this class with me.” He said, “if you don’t like it, you can just get out,” and, as you can see, I stayed there. I really liked it, and my instructor was really helpful, and that played a part in me staying as well. I stayed there throughout all my competitions. I really like computing as well, it’s a bit nerve-wracking in the beginning, but after that, once I get in my zone, I just focus on me and mine.
M.M.: Aside from your cousin’s suggestion, what made you interested in the industry?
N.R.: I saw some of the
M.M.: That’s awesome! So, do you have any family in the industry?
N.R.: I do not…actually, I have a niece, she’s in 11th grade, and she’s taking masonry classes.
M.M.: Oh, that is great! How does your family feel about you working in the masonry industry?
N.R.: At first, they felt it was a man’s job and male dominant, and I told them, “well, this is what I like to do,” and they said, “well, you’d rather be outside in the hot sun than working in an office?” I told them, “honestly, I love to labor, but I’d like to run my own company, so this is just a stepping stone to achieving my goal.” So, I have to work towards my goal, and start from the very bottom and work my way up.
M.M.: That’s a good mentality to have. Tell me about the masonry courses you took in high school.
N.R.: I took about four masonry classes, and two advanced masonry classes. I really liked them, my instructor Fred Mason was really helpful. I asked a lot of questions too, that helped me to learn more and made me want to achieve the speed [in the competitions] I was looking for or to make any corrections I could. He was there with me throughout the whole process during high school, I also had friends that were competing too. They kept pushing me, we pushed each other, and were a motivation for each other to keep going.
M.M.: You work with Brodie Contractors, Inc. What is your current role?
N.R.: I just started as a brick apprentice. I’m also learning new things as I go. I like to learn from the older people that are there, because they have more knowledge and more experience than I do, and I like to get their opinions or suggestions on how to do things. They’re very helpful.
M.M.: That’s good. How long have you been working there?
N.R.: The 25th of June was three months.
M.M.: You mentioned competitions earlier on, can you tell me about the competitions you’ve competed in?
N.R.: Yes. In high school, I was in a program called SkillsUSA, and from there Fred Mason, my instructor said, “I really want you to compete, but if you’re not up for it, or not comfortable, that’s totally fine with me.” I think he believed in me and what I could achieve, and I said, “you know what, if he believes in me, I can believe in myself.”
I started going to regionals of SkillsUSA, and from there, we went to State SkillsUSA, and I also competed at Adam’s in Goldsboro, NC [Butch Hardy Memorial Masonry Competition], and I was the first female winner overall back in 2014. I won all the Ladies Division competitions all four years of high school, and I won Overall twice. Competitions were a bit nerve-wracking in the beginning, but after that I just got in my zone, and just went for it!
M.M.: How did you prepare for your competitions?
N.R.: We used to build these sample panels, and they usually give us a time limit in which we have to finish it, but we wouldn’t really be able to see what project we’re going to do. We just practiced any project to perfect our speed, our timing, our levelling, and our measurements. I also would usually do about 20 minutes on the speed run, which was laying a straight wall for 20 minutes as fast as we can, and then we would jump into building the sample panel for three hours.
M.M.: That does sound nerve-wracking!
N.R.: Yes. Usually, for state competitions there was about seventy other kids competing, and there’s just people walking around everywhere.
M.M.: What’s your proudest moment?
N.R.: It would have to be at Adams in Goldsboro, NC. because that was the last year I was there. I was mentally and physically ready, and I wasn’t rushing my projects at all. I totally took my time and there was just the sense of calm over me. After I finished the project, and they were telling calling the winners, I was the last one, and the people were said, “oh, well, we have a female winner, and we already know who it is!” Everybody said my name, and I was so stunned that many people knew who I was, recognized me, and acknowledged what I was doing. I think that was my proudest moment.
M.M.: So, where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
N.R.: I see myself having my own company. That’s been my goal since I was a freshman in high school. To have my own business, and to be a project manager.
M.M.: What’s going to keep you interested in the masonry industry, aside from running your own business?
N.R.: Actually, I like laying bricks, so I don’t think there’s anything that’s really going to run me away from bricklaying, except if it was super hot! I think that would run me away.
M.M.: How is it working with the older guys?
N.R.: At first, they were all just asking me questioning like “what are you doing here? Are you a laborer? Are you just here to watch?“ I told them, “no, I’m actually here to lay some bricks with you guys!” Their responses were, “what?! I’ve never seen a lady lay bricks before.” I responded, “well, you’re about to see one today!” They were skeptical at first, but they are actually very helpful. There’s some people out there that just have their own way of…different people have different ways of working. I’m just learning from each individual on how they do certain things, to see if I can pick it up, or see if it’s helpful for me.
Working with them, it’s pretty fun at times, but sometimes I feel, not stressed, but I guess they just try to correct me if I’m doing something wrong. They will say, “why don’t you do it this way or this way?” I take it into consideration, and then if they see that I don’t do it their way, I don’t know if…it bums them out, and they’ll tell me to do it again. I’ll say, “well, this is my way of doing this, and I don’t want to push you guys aside, or you to think I’m not listening to you, which I am, I just feel like this works better for me.” I just take everything into consideration.
M.M.: Tell us about some challenges that you’ve faced so far in your career?
N.R.: People always underestimating me.
M.M.: What’s your day to day look like?
N.R.: Hot. My supervisor usually has me doing different things almost every other day. I guess he puts me to the test at times, I usually have to use my level a lot. I come in and levelling, and sometimes he’ll just put me on the straight wall with the other guys, just so I can go with their speed, kind of to get with the motion that they’re going in. So each day is kind of different. Sometimes we’ll do arches where you don’t lean on the wall. It’s just different things on different days. I guess my supervisor wants to see what I’m capable of, what I can do, what I can’t do, and what I need adjustments on.
M.M.: So tell us about some other projects that you have worked on.
N.R.: I have underpinned some trailers, I have built bump houses, and I have done repair work. I also have enclosed doors and windows, have done pest jobs, and have also done patios with pavers.
M.M.: And you did all those by yourself?
N.R.: I actually had help from my niece that I told you about, I had her to go help me lay bricks and lay blocks.
M.M.: That is really cool. I think it is really great you are working all the time to improve upon your craft. What advice would you give someone your age or younger looking to get into the masonry industry?
N.R.: That you have to be dedicated and you have to want it. If you’re just going in there to waste time, it’s not going to benefit you. If my niece was coming to work in the industry, I’d tell her to be prepared to face struggles, or to face challenges from the guys. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone but yourself. All you have to do is keep your head up, and if you really want it, you can achieve it.
M.M.: Good advice, do you have anything that you want to add?
N.R.: I’d like to add that I would like to take this opportunity to thank my instructor, Fred Mason for all he has taught me, and for all the pushing he has done for me. I would also like to thank Calvin Brodie for allowing me the opportunity to work for him, and being able to learn from different people who have different concepts of doing things. I’m very honored.