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Modern Work Space

Meet Isis Harris


My name is Isis Harris, I am a native Oregonian who grew up in Northeast Portland prior to the areas noticeable Gentrification.  Named for Isis, the Eqyptian Mother Goddess of fertility, healing, love and death (with honorable mention of “Almighty Isis” of the infamous ‘Secrets of Isis’ 70’s sitcom) I came up understanding the power of my name but without the understanding of how to harness that power within myself. If a name is a foundation for the future potential of a person one might surmise that there would be powerful life experiences in store for me. In my adulthood, my Father told me that my Mother, who died when I was 3, gave me such a strong name because she knew that surviving and excelling in this life would take a warrior’s spirit. She wanted me to be strong like she was, and I like to think that I’ve lived up to her expectation.
As a young, single parent my life began to resemble an assortment of statistics as I navigated the hills and valleys of life attempting to create a solid foundation for my family. After a succession of starts and stops, intermittent employment, and attempts at traditional education I found myself needing to create an inroad to a brighter future for myself and my children. In 2013 I enrolled in the Constructing Hope Pre-Apprenticeship Program, where I excelled as a student and obtained employment in the electrical field prior to completion, in turn earning the Outstanding Student Award. In 2015, I was accepted in the Limited Energy Apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48, and transferred to the Inside Wireman Apprenticeship in 2016. In addition to working as an electrical apprentice I also served as the the Vice President of the Gus Miller Chapter of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, IBEW Local 48, the Women Justice Advisory Committee, and was a 2017 Fellow with the Portland Chapter of the New Leaders Council. I currently sit on the Board of Directors for Oregon TradesWomen, while working on the launch of several business ventures.
 I was featured in the Independent Film, “Awareness of Unconscious Gender Bias: My Whole Self” by Barbara J. Diamond (March 2017) where I shared my perspective on being a black woman in a construction trade; a traditionally white male dominated occupation. Working in the construction industry was the best decision I made, during a very dark period in my life. My career in the electrical industry has ensured I can provide for my family and myself in a self-sufficient manner. It has been hard at times, being in the field and not seeing many who look like me, or encountering people on the worksite so indoctrinated by construction culture that having a conversation with another black person or woman, seems taboo. There is a certain amount of pressure to fit it, but I cannot see myself compromising what I stand for to make others feel comfortable in my presence. I show up to work as myself, Isis Harris, and give respect until it’s no longer deserved. As you can imagine that leads to some lonely lunch breaks, but I accept that consequence. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is definitely needed in the construction industry, and I will continue to do my part to make that happen. Until I can open my own Electrical Contracting company, I will continue to lend my voice, and share my story with any organization, company, school or institution that requires it.
I have worked on recruitment materials with WorkSource Oregon to get the information about apprenticeship out to job seekers. I personally remember being unemployed and being desperate for a job that would pay enough for me to effectively manage my household. Hopefully efforts to widen the gap of exposure to information about apprenticeship will prevent the next mother, felon, or high school drop-out from flailing through life that much sooner. I’m involved in community outreach efforts to educate and encourage commonly overlooked populations about apprenticeship opportunities, by dispelling the rumors of inaccessibility, and providing tangible information to obtain employment. I frequently participated in volunteer efforts with my Union providing services to the elderly, veterans, and homeless individuals in my community.
 I have a passion for prison outreach and have shared my testimony with the female population of Oregon’s only women’s prison in a mission to enlighten and provide a sense of hope to a demographic that is often times overlooked, and seemingly discarded due to not fitting into societal norms. I once resided within those walls and remember the air being thick with discontent, desperation and hopelessness. I wish someone had told me about apprenticeship opportunities when I was incarcerated, or better yet, in my youth. Perhaps I would have been able to turn my life around for the better that much sooner. I’m just happy I finally found out about construction-based apprenticeship opportunities and am able to share that information with others.
My testimony encompasses a lot of pain but also a wealth of triumph because without the pain, and the lessons learned from it I would not be the formidable woman I am today. I am a dope soul and I say that in the humblest way possible. It took a lot for me to piece together my sense of self with no teacher and to nurture my confidence, against all odds, to a level healthy enough to take this leap. I do not yearn for society’s idea of perfection. I simply yearn to be the best me; and I have invited you along for the journey. I am a Mother, an Entrepreneur, and a Tradeswoman best expressed by the Latin Phrase “omne trium perfectum: everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete. In short I am my own form of perfection just simply by my existence and in my triad of struggle. It’s the 3v3ryDay Grind that makes me who I am. I absolutely refuse to stop pushing forward.
My journey is not defined, it does not fit neatly inside a nicely wrapped box. Much of what I will accomplish in the future is still being figured out. The thing is, I choose not to wait until my plan is totally spelled out, crossed check, and neatly typed. I’m walking out on faith, and the determination that what I create will be beautiful even in the midst of the struggle; much like the life I’ve lived thus far. Will you join me?

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