White Collar/Blue Collar: A Q&A With Jessica DuLong
Written by
marci alboher
November 2009
Written by
marci alboher
November 2009
In a black silk blouse with skinny jeans and stylish black boots, Jessica DuLong doesn't look like she spends her days in the bowels of a 78-year-old fireboat. That's because I met her on a day when she was inhabiting her other job, that of the author of a newly released book. A former dotcom executive and freelance journalist, DuLong had an accidental career change after spending some time volunteering on The the John J. Harvey, a retired 1931 New York City fireboat that has become a living museum. Now one of few female fireboat engineers in the world, DuLong's newly published book, “My River Chronicles,” is both a tale of career transformation and a compelling narrative about a time when working boats and industry played a large role in America's economic and civic life. DuLong never left the world of words. And she is using her new book as a vehicle to get white-collar and blue-collar folks to talk to one another. DuLong isn’t the only one thinking about this subject. Another book praising the virtues of making and fixing things, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I had tea with DuLong to talk about class divisions surrounding work, why she left her dot com job to work in the engine room of an old boat, and why she thinks the perfect career is one that mixes brains and brawn. Here is a condensed version of our chat: Q: I often recommend volunteering as a way to make a career change. That was your path, right? A: Yes. I was working in the Empire State Building and one of my colleagues invited me to attend a volunteer day on the John J. Harvey, a retired New York City fireboat that he and some friends had bought at a scrap auction and hoped to repair. I’d been driving a desk for so long that the invitation to “Come down and get dirty” was too appealing to pass up. Before long I found myself perched on top of this monster diesel engine, where I was using a power saw to cut out unused heating pipe. I was absolutely hooked. Someone snapped a picture and gave it to one of the boat’s investors. This was the realest thing I had done in ages. I had been spending my days building something -- Web sites -- that you can’t even hold in your hands. Stumbling onto that fireboat provided a taste of home I didn’t even know I was missing. It was visceral. I had blisters by the end of the day, and I smiled even at the idea of it. I kept coming to volunteer days and eventually met the investor who recognized me from the photo. He told me there was an opening in the engine room and asked if I’d like to try out. I didn’t think I had enough experience and I warned him that I didn’t know anything, but he reassured me that a trained monkey could do it. Though that turned out to be far from the truth, that’s all he needed to say to calm me down. It helped me muster up the courage to try out. Soon my volunteering turned into a job. {Read the rest at Yahoo!} http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/life/white-collar-blue-collar-a-perfect-career-match-527980/;_ylt=AkEYNNBAN2l0hXN7QnYPJ0JhbqU5

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