Austin Energy has its first female line crew apprentice. She hopes to set a good example.
As a kid growing up on a bayou in Galliano, La., Cherie Cheramie didn’t necessarily seek out female role models. But as one of the newest graduates from Austin Energy’s climbing school, she’s quickly becoming one herself.
Cheramie, 30, made history last month by becoming the first woman to graduate from the school, a necessary step before joining Austin Energy field crews. Cheramie graduated to a four-year apprenticeship program by scaling a 70-foot training pole in front of a crowd of family, friends and crew staff.
“I know there are not a lot of females in trades like line work, and so I do have to set an example,” she said. “I’m just trying my best. I’m trying to be a humble worker about it and trying to set a really good example for females to come after me.”
Tired of working desk jobs, Cheramie wanted a change. A former Marine, she was interested in first responder roles and "high hazard" jobs, as she described them.
Her graduation in April came after a five-week training course that covered safe pole-climbing techniques and electrical construction tutorials. Cheramie is now a distribution electrician helper for Austin Energy, with the goal of becoming a journey level line worker — whose duties include installation, maintenance and repair of underground and overhead electrical systems.
Despite being in the military, Cheramie says she was afraid to fall throughout her first semester of training at Texas State Technical College in Waco.
“I had to trust my equipment, I didn’t know what my equipment was capable of,” she said. “And then I learned, ‘Oh, if you step out of your belt and you fall, it’s going to hold you on the pole.’ So I had to learn to get over that fear.”
It was through her 2016 enlistment that Cheramie was able to meld two passions: a desire to serve her country, while also playing music. She played drums in rock and jazz bands during her service and also participated in small percussion and wind ensembles.
Music is in her roots. Both her parents were music instructors, and Cheramie started playing drums at 5. For fun, she played in her family’s rock band up until she was 14 or 15, and she later graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in music at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
By entering a male-dominated profession, Cheramie has situated herself as a trailblazer for the next generation.
“I think eventually, it will really hit me,” she said. “I might have that 12-year-old girl that’s like, ‘I saw you on the news so many years ago, and I want to be just like you.’ That might make me shed a little tear.”