Lineliz Cartagena: Tackling New Challenges Daily


“I jumped in as green as can be,” says Lineliz Cartagena, who just completed her Third Year in the IEC Apprenticeship Program with IEC Florida East Coast and Kasper Electrical in West Palm Beach, FL. “I’m really excited to go to work each day. Not only do I get to see value from how hard I work, but the fact that other people will get to enjoy what I’ve worked on always provides great satisfaction too. I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.” 

Lineliz, often called Lina, took that leap into electrical after she was already in college. Concerned about building college debt, she was intrigued by a pre-apprentice electrical program at her community college. She had no knowledge of what the field entailed, knew no tradesmen in her life, but was drawn to it. 

“It felt like a path to a job where I would immediately feel valued by the people around me, and I have always enjoyed learning how things work,” she says. “I saw it as an opportunity to try something that I had never really given a chance before in my life. I wanted a job that gave me skills I could use at home too and figured if I didn’t like it, then I’ll just go back to taking normal college classes. I fell in love with the trade pretty quickly.” 


The Road Traveled 

Lina entered that pre-apprentice program, and it was a stepping stone to IEC. In fact, when in the pre-apprentice program, she attended an IEC Florida East Coast job fair and instantly felt the camaraderie and student support that is an IEC trademark.

“They invited me to join their pipe bending class even though I wasn’t technically a student with them yet,” Lina recalls. “From the very beginning they were very open and encouraging of me. They even gave me a pipe bender that day!” 

Lina says IEC instructors have been really encouraging and helpful whenever she has a question. She also appreciates how they constantly gently ‘push’ apprentices to challenge themselves to take on new tasks, and how the chapter staff also gets involved with the apprentices and helps them to believe in themselves. 

“The staff really cares about the students and are really easy to contact,” Lina says. “One year they had a Christmas competition where we were challenged to make Christmas decorations out of electrical material. They keep the students involved. I feel like the staff and the teachers have been my best experience throughout the IEC Apprenticeship Program.” 

Lately, the labs have been most interesting to Lina. 

“My teacher in Third Year did a really good job in the labs, and I enjoyed getting into the more technical side like controls wiring and dealing with relays,” Lina says. “We worked on time clock relays — how to troubleshoot and how to read the diagrams. This was definitely intimidating at first, but I’m feeling more confident about reading diagrams now.” 

The labs also opened up new areas — areas where her on the job work had not yet taken her. She loved learning, sees how expansive the field is, and is ready to tackle new challenges. 


Putting It All Together 

During second semester of Third Year, Lina was assigned to a project where she was in it from the beginning and able to see her experiences at work and in class come together.

Lina’s first beam signing on the 55 and over community clubhouse.

“For a while, the work I was doing in class felt so advanced compared to the work I was doing in the field,” she explains. “But that’s changing. I was put on a project at its beginning — when it was just dirt. It’s a two-story, 20,000 square foot clubhouse for a 55 and over community. It was months of underground putting pipe together, taking measurements, gluing, and doing that again and again. I’m learning all this technical stuff in class and I’m coming to work and I’m just digging and putting pipe together. Now, that project is getting more advanced, I’m seeing and doing more and understanding how many different ways we ground a building for example. I’m really blessed to now be able to see my class work and my work day collide more.”

Acknowledging it’s really hard to be patient sometimes, Lina says she’s now had enough experiences where she sees how important that PVC pipe she laid underground is when months later she then goes to pull wire through it. 

“I then get to see the fruits of that labor when my pipe doesn’t come apart and I made sure that there was no dirt in there,” she laughs. “I feel really good about that!” 

Lina is a good team member — she enjoys doing most any job, doesn’t like complaining, and is appreciative of her foreman and team members’ support when she is attempting something new. A typical day for her midway through the clubhouse project was coming into work, walking with her foreman through the site, checking material, and getting a game plan for the day and, sometimes, the week. 

“We looked at a lot of floor layouts, so I was using my architect ruler a lot,” Lina remembers. “There was still plenty of pipe bending; I was actually running an inch and a quarter pipe, and the pipe bender itself was as big as me!” 

She also was happy to be asked by her foreman to look over other people’s work and do some training of younger apprentices. As the project progresses, Lina better sees the big picture. 

“I really like for everything to stay organized and to be sure things are being labeled so that at the end of the project things are as seamless as possible,” Lina says. “We try to think ahead. Some great advice my foreman gave me is to think of the next person who is going to work on this — maybe I’ll even know those service techs — so make sure we leave enough wire in the box for them and that things are accessible.” 

Bottom line, Lina now knows that electrical IS her future, and she is excited to work toward her journeyman’s and maybe even master’s license as she moves forward in her electrical career. 



Seashells Anyone?

When you work in Florida, seashells abound. Lina says she keeps finding more and more seashells when doing underground work. 

“This is something a lot of electricians can’t say!” Lina reports. “I thought this was the cutest thing ever. Once I found a whole conch shell. My coworkers teased me quite a bit about how excited I was to find them, but they got over it. I started decorating the office with my shells!”