Behind the Blueprint: An Interview With Carl Murawski - 1620 Workwear, Inc icon

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Behind the Blueprint: An Interview With Carl Murawski

by Mary Farrington February 15, 2024 7 min read

Behind the Blueprint: An Interview With Carl Murawski

We get a lot of questions and comments from guys that are hyped about the opportunity in the trades, guys that are looking for alternative paths to making money that don't require sitting in an office all day. So, earlier this year, we spent some time in Connecticut with Carl Murawski, a longtime friend of ours and someone that's spent a lot of time in the trades. Carl has been a mechanic, tow truck driver, and a licensed electrician. He has a passion for the trades and high quality workwear and has built an online following around his honest product reviews.

Getting Into Trade Work

Question: Talk a little about your journey, a little bit about your skill set, your trade, and how a young guy in the Connecticut area finds his way towards this kind of work.

Answer: It's tricky, and I don't think I would recommend my path to anybody. I did it out of frustration and lack of any other opportunity. I was like, alright, I can't afford college and I don't want to go back for four years just to incur a bunch of debt. But I was upset, frustrated at my position as a mechanic. I actually enjoyed that work because it was fun. You got to go out and tow cars, and fix stuff, and play around with engines. But, there's not a whole lot of old mechanics out there who really love their jobs. You're bending over all day or you're working overhead, you're out in the elements constantly, and the pay sucked. That was the big thing. If they were paying me $35 an hour, I might have stayed there. But at the time, I was making $11 and that was up from $9. When I started my first year as an apprentice, I was making $13 an hour and we had overtime. I felt like I was making money hand over fist. The hours were shorter, I was making more money. It was 2005, maybe. We were doing a lot of houses, a lot of developments where they had a dozen types of homes and we would crank them out. But then when the housing market collapsed in 2008, the company I was working for shifted pretty hard to doing commercial and industrial projects.

Question: Your path started in a technical, vocational, school. Was it as simple as finding one? Did you really look into it, in terms of location or length of the program?

Answer: I drove right to the closest one. Again, I wouldn't recommend that path for anybody. I think that if I had known all the different options, I probably would have chosen a different one. Even just an electrical one, because the end result is that you end up in a cool place working for a great company, but the way you get there could have been smoother. And when you're working for some of these smaller contractors, they kind of want to hold you back a little bit.

I remember asking my boss, what would be the next step? And he was like, this is pretty much it. You're going to run a small crew and that's going to be the end of it. And I was like, no I don't think that's true. These bigger jobs, they must have other people that are there, but they did everything they could to prevent me from even finding that information out. Being tenacious as I am, I was going and asking people. Matter of fact, I emailed everybody I could find in the biggest companies in the Northeast.

Question: There's a reality to skilled labor, to how hard you work, the hours that you're up, when you have to be on the job site, the weather you have to work in. Talk about your first couple of years. How many average hours were you putting in every week? When did you have to be on the job in the morning?

Answer: We were doing a typical 8-hour day back in those times, it was like 7:00 to 3:30. Again, that was a big change because I was working 7:00 to 5:00 at the auto shop, some days even 7:00 to 7:00. That was what I was used to, so I thought I was working less hours and it was great. We were also working on Saturdays until about noon, so it probably averages out to about 44 hours per week with a bit of overtime in there. And then, you work in some places that was a far commute, and we'd do four 10s to prevent driving down there that Friday.

Opportunities in the Trades

Question: What do you see in terms of opportunity in the next three, five, or ten years in terms of specific trades? Are you able to see a real shortage within certain segments? Is it across the board?

Answer: I don't think you'll find anybody out there who would say they have a surplus of guys who want to come work for them. It seems like across the board everybody is saying it's hard to find good people. They're actually accepting people they maybe would have turned away because they need the bodies. So the rockstars can rise really quickly. But if I had somebody who was asking me what they should get involved in, it would depend a lot on the person and what they wanted to do.

If I had to do it over again, I think I would get into being a crane operator. Because you get to deal with big, cool stuff every day. The one downside is that you're kind of locked into that little cockpit. But, gone are the days when you're looking up at the pick. These things are like Cadillacs. It's unbelievable. And here in New England, where we get such a swing, being able to be in the AC or have some heat on a day like today, that's a major luxury. You can make good money doing it depending on the certifications. You get your tower crane license and you can do some big work that's very high up where you don't even see the bottom of the pick or where it ends up. You see it kind of go by you and everything else is done through the radio. But again, there's a big barrier to entry because you have to have specific certifications. You want to work here in the tri-state area, you have to get your license in each place. So there's not a whole lot of reciprocity.

A lot of times the operators can make your job easy or they can make it hell. You should start off the job getting in good graces, maybe doing a few favors for somebody where you don't have to. Earlier in jobs, I always try to take care of everybody's job trailer. Everybody needs power, everybody's bringing their trailers, everybody needs internet. So you hook them up, make sure they're good. If there's a problem, you respond and all of that. That kind of good grace goes a long way later in the job. Same thing with temporary lighting, with electrical. You give people the lighting where they need it. If they request it, you jump on it. Then, later, if you need a pick or if you need any number of different things, just being able to have a few favors to call in pays dividends. Especially with crane operators, if you need some stuff picked, they might move you up in the queue. It just works out in your favor.

Going From White Collar to Blue

Question: A lot of guys are disenchanted with or disenfranchised from their white collar world. They're college educated, but they're looking towards opportunities in the trades. Are you seeing the same thing? Do you have any advice for guys that are just over their commute or their big tech company just laid them off after 15 years of service?

Answer: It used to be that the old apprentice wasn't really a thing. And in a way, you have an advantage the earlier you start. The more energy you have, the more resilient you are, you can get up the next day and you're ready to go. Whereas nowadays, in my forties, maybe it takes a little bit longer. That's an immediate disadvantage, but that's also where the gear can come in. If you have a lot of things that are working against you all day because you don't know how to outfit yourself to do the job that you're doing, you're going to be less resilient, less effective at your job, and less safe. So, having all that stuff in place as you go out and do what you have to do is a big thing.

If you're a later adopter of a skilled trade, you also come with a new perspective that guys that have been stuck in it since they were 18 might not have anymore. Maybe you're someone that spent a lot of time in an office and you have a skill with being professional, you can actually be the guy that can go to these finished spaces and install receptacles, finish stuff, light fixtures. A lot of those things that have to happen and that you often can't get the guy who was the bull of the crew to do and present well. Often the big challenge is figuring out where someone will fit. You don't want to make a fish climb a tree. So, if someone is good at one particular thing, that's what they should do. If you come into the trades later in life with a background in something that's unique like that, it could be a strength. It might be one of those things that you have to point out to somebody, because maybe they don't see it. But, foremen worth their salt will pick up on that stuff pretty quickly.

Learn More About Carl Murawski

Watch the full video interview here, check out Carl's website, and follow Carl on his YouTube channel, Instagram, and TikTok.

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