Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m Christopher Gay, I’m from North Philly. My friends know me as Gutta. I’m a simple guy. I have a 3 year old son with autism. I went to Masterman, graduated from Germantown. I went Cheney for 2 years for computer science and electrical engineering. I never finished because I got in trouble because I caught a gun case in 2010 when I was home from school. It changed my life—for the better. I had to figure out my next step in life. I had a lack of options for the future because of my case. What could I do? Take a talent I had and make something of it—electrical. I went to Kaplan Career Institute (now called Brightwood) for Electrical Technician. But I didn’t finish because my girlfriend was pregnant and I had to provide. So I started working more (in the electrical field) and eventually had to leave school because I was working so much. In the meantime, I was working odd contracts, and my probation officer from YVRP took me down to PowerCorpsPHL.
When were you in PowerCorpsPHL?
I was supposed to be in the first cohort, but paperwork stopped me. So I joined Cohort 2 on Shaneeta Bagley’s Philadelphia Water crew H2O. I was did most of Cohort 3 on Ms. B’s crew.
Her crew was different back then, we were each placed at a Philadelphia Water site. I was at the Baxter Water Treatment Plant, 70% of drinking water for the city comes through here. I was placed in the electrical shop along with another H2O crew member. They were so pleased with me, they asked me to come back for another 6 month term with PowerCorpsPHL. By that time, I had gathered enough experience to take the civil service test. I took it and I came up shy by 2 points. That kind of discouraged me. So I left with a month to go of Cohort 3. I thought I was promised a position, but I didn’t get it. So I started my own contracting company called Woodstock Electrical Services.
What are you up to now?
After about 6 months of running my electrical contracting company, I got a call from Shaneeta and Philadelphia Water. They said a civil service opportunity opened up and because of the way I presented myself and the way I work, they wanted me to come back. They sought me out, that felt so good. And it wouldn’t have happened without PowerCorpsPHL.
I started as a Vocational Intern with Philadelphia Water at Baxter Water Treatment. I was quickly promoted to Utility Maintenance Apprentice. I was promoted again to Trades Helper, and I’m also a Shop Steward. I’m in training to be the union representative for Baxter, that means I’d be the voice of the plant! I’m currently on the promotion list for Full Scale Electrician!! I went back to school at Orleans Technical for Residential and Commercial Electricity; I got my Electrical License about 2 months ago.
I’m full time and salaried right now. I’m part of AFSCME District Council 33 Local 394 and I’m trying to become a union representative. I’m a millennial; being at this plant—a lot of operations here aren’t fair or just for everyone. I’m young, and if I’m going to stay at this plant—there are certain things I can’t stand for. I’m just trying to make a change for the better.
What about in your free time?
I’m working on buying and maintaining properties around the city. I currently have two properties. Working in this trade, I met the right people; they taught me about real estate. PowerCorpsPHL taught me how to network, and that’s what taught me about real estate.
I also like spending time with my son. Peace of mind is priceless, I work so much so I know how important it is to relax.
What motivates you?
My son motivates me. Having a son kind of saved my life. I saw my life going down the wrong path and when my girlfriend got pregnant I knew I needed to support them. I wake up every day and know I’m not just here for myself, I got to look out for my son. And him being autistic means I need to put in extra effort to make sure he’s comfortable.
How did your time with PowerCorpsPHL impact you?
PowerCorpsPHL was the first thing I actually completed since high school. That’s a big deal! It helped me polish up my rough skills. It helped me understand that I can be myself and I can better myself. I feel like PowerCorps impacted how others view me. I am a reflection of what is around me, and PowerCorpsPHL put me in a positive place. Without PowerCorpsPHL I would never have met the people I know now, or built a relationship with Philadelphia Water. I contribute my success to PowerCorpsPHL.
Now that you’re an alumni, what sort of involvement would you like to have with PowerCorpsPHL?
I would love to contribute to PowerCorpsPHL in any way shape or form possible, whether it’s speaking to other cohorts–or anything. PowerCorpsPHL has done so much for me, I’d do anything for them.
What do you miss about PowerCorpsPHL? What don’t you miss?
I miss the people. At first I wasn’t into the vibe of PowerCorpsPHL, the energy; but now that I’m not around that, I have to do that for myself. Positivity keeps me going. PowerCorpsPHL kept me grounded.
I don’t miss the paycheck; it was hard with a newborn, to maintain this and that—but I had to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I want to own my own real estate business and still work for Philadelphia Water (just higher up, ya know). There’s more money in real estate, so I’m thinking about the long run with that.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’m very thankful for the opportunity PowerCorpsPHL!
Shout out to Shaneeta Bagley, Ms. Shelley, and Ms. Chevelle (from Philadelphia Water)!