Annie Tooley

Gretchen Smith


Gretchen was no stranger to manual labor. She grew up in the small town of Enumclaw, just 10 minutes from the Rino offices. She was considering careers as a CNA or in construction when an electrician friend nudged her toward the trades.

Since she liked working hard and being outside, the invitation appealed to her. She saw a job opening at Rino, interviewed, and got it on the spot. Three years later, she was working as a laborer and traffic control supervisor for Rino.

“I found my place,” she said. “Not everyone likes doing traffic control. It’s a pain. You’re dealing with traffic, busy streets, the cones, the noise. But I’m good at it, and most days I like it.” 

Where did she want to go next in her career?

“I’m gonna be an operator,” Gretchen said without hesitation. "I had a foreman who heard I wanted to operate, so one day at lunch he put me in one of the bigger excavators and said, ‘Climb out of that hole!’ I made it out of the hole without breaking anything or hurting anyone! And that was it for meI was hooked.”

She didn't mind the outdoors, and she loved the construction industry. “Once you get used to being outside, the elements are no big deal.”

Her take on working in a male-dominated industry was like her attitude about the weather: “You've gotta have thick skin. And be ready to work harder than the guys, to prove yourself. But don’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.”

Find out how you can become a construction laborer like Gretchen.

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