Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Anna Dionisio
Editor’s Note: In this month’s installment of the GEN NXT series, we spoke with masonry student Anna Dionisio. At the time of the interview, Anna attended Southeastern College Academy and completed her senior year with the plans to continue her studies. Since her freshman year, she has been taking masonry courses and is excited to see what the future holds for her in the masonry industry. We’d like to thank Anna for taking the time to chat with us, and JagClamp for sponsoring this important series.
MASONRY Magazine: Tell us a bit of yourself.
Anna Dionisio: I’m 17. I’m sitting here at Southeastern College Academy, and this is my senior year. I was planning on graduating, but I’m going to end up saying my super senior year. I’m going just to continue my studies here at Southeastern.
M.M.: Did you take any masonry courses in high school?
A.D.: Yes, I’ve taken masonry all four years.
M.M.: Can you tell us about some of the masonry classes that you have taken in the past?
A.D: Took Introduction to Construction, which is the first class you must take to be in masonry. And then there’s masonry, one, two, and three. After that, there are two Advanced Study classes — 1 and 2. After you finish Advanced Studies, you do the pre-apprentice class, which I’m in now.
M.M.: Tell us a little bit more about your pre-apprentice class. Are you going to be applying for an internship when that’s complete?
A.D.: I’m not sure. I didn’t have an internship; at the beginning of the semester, Natltaly Razo gave me one. I did a couple of jobs with her, and right now, it’s been hard to work with the weather and everything. So we’ve been just on hold for right now.
M.M.: Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the projects you’ve worked on with Natltaly?
A.D.: The first one we did was have a lot of quick clients at a storage building. They wanted straight columns, which would be high. So we did that, and it was kind of a struggle with the guys. We did a couple of porches and other house additions and things like that.
M.M.: How did you get connected with Natltaly?
A.D.: I knew her from school and her niece – she’s my friend. So we hung around each other a lot, and that’s how we kind of started everything, honestly.
M.M.: What attracted you to start working in masonry?
A.D.: My grandpa was a mason back in Mexico. He got my dad into it, and he got into construction and everything. It kind of runs in the family. Then I found out about it and wanted to try it.
M.M.: Have you had the opportunity to work with your dad or your grandfather?
A.D.: I have worked with my dad a couple of times, but not much.
M.M.: Have you ever done competitive masonry?
A.D: Yes. I have competed in a couple of competitions, and I’ve won— I’m not sure how many, but I’ve competed and won.
M.M.: Can you tell us about your favorite wins?
A.D.: My most recent win was SPEC MIX’s Jr. Bricklayer competition. I had to lay as many bricks as I could in 20 minutes. I’m not sure how many bricks I laid, but it was over 200, and I got first place for them.
M.M.: Tell us a bit of what your experience has been so far working as a woman in the masonry industry.
A.D.: It has been scary, honestly. I have had everybody looking down on me. It’s kind of intimidating, but I can go in, and I like to do what I do. Honestly, it’s up to me and how I take the experience. They wouldn’t be able to take that from me, whatever I have learned on the jobsite or every little detail. Even though they know that I’m younger than them, I’m still trying to learn the trade.
M.M.: What is your experience being a young person on the jobsite with some older guys?
A.D.: They underestimate me, which is fine. I am young, I don’t know a lot, but I like to take advantage of being underestimated because then I get to show them what I can do.
M.M.: Do you think it’s important that there is female representation and young person representation in the masonry industry?
A.D.: Yes, for sure. I’m so proud of everybody, especially all the girls that are out there. It’s all about managing and, you know, sticking to what you love, just not worrying about everybody out.
M.M.: Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
A.D.: Well, hopefully working. I do a little bit of everything. I don’t just do masonry; my dad is a mechanic. I help him out when I can with cars and stuff, little things — I’m still learning. I have done a little bit of plumbing and pouring concrete— that’s the one thing I don’t like the most. But I still do it because I just want to learn as much as I can. Not just masonry, but everything. I don’t want to just be like having to depend on somebody else to do my work or fix my car whenever I know I could do it myself.
M.M.: What do you think will keep you interested in the mason industry?
A.D.: It’s the creativity that has to do with masonry. Like, there are all types of designs you can do. I love to draw, so that it incorporates amazingly, having different designs on different things, building houses, the color, everything; I think that’s just what has me more intriguing than masonry.
M.M.: Have you used any design tools before, maybe in your classes?
A.D.: I did a spiral column for my advanced studies project last year. I did a little design on it. It was like a mushroom effect. Then it started to spiral, and a lot of people seem to like it. I was kind of surprised. I was just playing around with the design. Then the president from SEC came over and asked me if I built the column? I told him yes, I did it. He told me this is cool. So I just thought I could make another one with a slightly different design. So I did build it, and I recently finished it a couple of weeks ago. I think, like three weeks ago. I finished it. Now we have a permanent spiral at SEC. So that’s kind of my pride there.
M.M.: Would you say that was one of your proudest accomplishments in your masonry career so far?
A.D.: Yes, I’ve never thought I would be sitting at a college building, something that’s like mine. But at the same time, I just never thought I would be doing that.
M.M.: Can you tell me a bit about your masonry instructor and the impact that they’ve had on you?
A.D.: I mean, honestly, he. He’s been with me from the very beginning of my masonry education. At first, I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am. He’s been a huge part of it; he’s always pushed me and has always told me, “You don’t see it. But I see it. You’re a brick mason.” In my freshman year, I had two breaks, and he’s like, you’re going to be a star. I’m just like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Every time, I’d feel like I just couldn’t do something. He’d tell me, I’m just overthinking, and not to overthink it, just focus on the project.
He’s just been good to me and everybody else. He’s been a very good inspiration for me, as well as my dad. Both of them encouraged me to do it and keep pushing.
M.M.: Is there any advice you would like to give to somebody interested in getting started in the masonry industry?
A.D.: Focus on what you want and not what other people think of you because, at the end of the day, you’re the one that needs to be satisfied, not them.