Tiffany Shelton has an ideal temperament for traffic control. She loves being outdoors and she doesn’t let impatient motorists get under her skin. Since graduating with Westside Works’ Construction Group No. 5 in February 2015, she has found her niche with Astra Group, a Woodstock-based full-service contractor.
While Tiffany’s entrée into the construction industry is recent, she was well-acquainted with the business. She grew up in Fitzgerald, Georgia, where her father owned a construction company. “Being outside and doing hard work was never a problem for me,” she says. “I grew up around the tractors, the dirt, the mud, the concrete – all that good stuff.”
Tiffany initially decided on a medical career path. She’s worked as a phlebotomist, a PRN and a certified nursing assistant. In recent years she began to grow restless and decided a career change might be in order.
“I loved the medical field, but I was ready for something different,” she says. “My dad always said to give yourself a break from a job before you start hating it. It was just time. So I thought, ‘What better way than to go back to something I grew up around?’”
Tiffany was living on Atlanta’s Westside and working as a patient care tech at Northside Hospital when she learned about Westside Works and its four-week construction training program. She continued to work nights while taking the construction classes by day, impressing her classmates with her determination.
“I would come to class in scrubs and they would say, ‘What are you doing?’” she recalls with a laugh. With two children at home – a middle-schooler and a 7-year-old – she couldn’t afford to not work.
Tiffany started as a general laborer with Astra and later moved into traffic control, erosion control and flag crew supervision. Her work has taken her all over Atlanta, from the Westside Trail/Atlanta Beltline project to a baseball complex in Milton to her current assignment on a Northside Drive widening project.
There she meets new people everyday – motorists, runners, delivery drivers, even golfers whose shot stray from the adjacent Bobby Jones Golf Course.
“I’m a people person, so I enjoy it,” she says. “You never know what to expect. One guy rides by and calls me ‘Miss Mary Poppins’ because I wear a big hat. You just have to know how to deal and how not to deal if someone gets angry about being delayed. I state the facts and I don’t let anybody rain on my parade.”
Tiffany also has endeared herself to her co-workers. She often brings food for the crew and she says they’ve come to view her as a mother figure.
“She’s worked out well, especially in terms of being on time and being diligent,” says site superintendent Scott Creek. “She’s very outgoing and very easy to get along with. She keeps things upbeat and light.”
As it has done for so many others, Westside Works gave Tiffany a new start at just the right time. The opportunity is there, and those who enter the program and seize it are likely to succeed.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Tiffany says. “We don’t always get those opportunities. You really can’t go wrong. The only way you can go wrong is by defeating yourself. The way I look at it, there’s no room for ‘I can’t.’”
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