As a woman successfully running a business in an industry that has been dominated by men for decades, Barrett Plumbing president Jessica M. Barrett is outstanding in her field. A 1995 graduate of the University of Guam’s business school, Barrett’s 25-year span in the plumbing industry began in 1989 when she made the transition from photography to helping her parents with the family business.
“My mom asked me to come and help out one day,” she says. “In the beginning, I was just doing filing, paperwork — standard clerk stuff. But I would just listen to my dad as we discussed issues during morning meetings. Being a part of that world, I would hear about all the different problems and how to solve them, and I began internalizing the process. Of course, I went to school and got more formal plumbing training later on, but hands-on is definitely the best education you can get. You learn way more from getting your hands dirty than you can from any book.”
Barrett later went on to earn her plumbing certification through the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program in 2005 becoming the first Chamorro female to be certified as a plumber on island.
Now a proud 43-year-old mother of two boys — Alexander Jude, 6, and Lewis John, 7 — Barrett runs the family business from their home office in Chalan Pago after inheriting presidency of the company from her father in 2003.
“We did the formal conversion about 11 years ago,” she says, “but my dad’s actually still very active in the company. He’s off island for medical reasons right now, but he still asks about the company and contributes to it, even though he’s technically supposed to be retired. He loves this place. My dad is really what inspired me to pursue this path.”
The company that her parents started in 1972 is now hers to run. Her older sister helps out on the weekends, and her sister’s son and daughter are also employees at the company, doing the plumbing and clerical work.
“With any luck, one or both of my kids will be coming up after them,” she says. “It’s nice to keep the family tradition going.”
Barrett says that her favorite thing about the plumbing industry is that it always offers something new, whether it be a new challenge or a new solution to an old problem. “It’s not tedious or repetitive,” she says. “It’s an ever-changing field with new technology and new techniques coming out every day. Plus, it just feels really good to know that I have the chance to help people.”
When she’s not hard at work in the office or travelling to a convention or expo to keep up to speed on the latest in her field, she tries to spend all of her free time with her sons. “I barely have time with them these days, so I try to treasure those moments,” she says. “It’s tough balancing home life and work as a single parent, especially because this is something we’re on-call for at all hours of the day. So when I retire, I want to spend time with my sons. I had my sons really late in life after I’d established my career, but I think it’s kind of nice that I’ll be able to be more of a mom. I tell my niece that I’m going to retire when I’m 50. It’d be nice to have that kind of peace instead of having to juggle business life and mother life all the time.”
Barrett is a board member of the Guam chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction and is slated to be the group’s president- elect in 2015. She is also a member of the Guam Contractors Association, the Guam Chamber of Commerce and the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce. A pet lover, she donates plumbing services and her time to Guam Animals in Need whenever she can and is considering doing some charitable work with the Alee Women’s Shelter.