Staff Contact:

Andrea J. Burney, APR

Director of  Public Relations



Porchia Russell

Porchia Russell works in precision machining lab.

DANVILLE, VA, September 8, 2015 – Marching to the beat of her own drums. That is what 28-year-old Porchia Russell, a May 2015 graduate of Danville Community College (DCC)’s Precision Machining Technology program, has done since childhood.

A family friend gave Russell her first set of drumsticks at the age of three. Russell started playing the drums – and by her own set of rules – then, without fear of failure and without regard to the conventions of society. She played basketball and softball in school and had a fascination with Legos and how things are constructed. She later designed her own line of T-shirts. Most recently, Russell recently found her niche in a male-dominated career field – precision machining.

“I’m a female drummer. I’m a machinist. I’m an artist. I don’t want to regret not trying something. If you want to accomplish something, find some way of doing it. Set goals for yourself.? Russell asserts with the kind of confidence that commands respect – from her former male classmates in the precision machining lab at DCC to her fellow machine operators in her current job at Ideal Fastener.

Because of the scarcity of female machinists, the skills she gained as a student at DCC, and her self-confidence, Russell had the luxury of choosing where she would work. By last count, she had seven employment offers, and ultimately accepted the one she received from Ideal Fastener in Oxford, N.C. Always learning, Russell says she chose Ideal Fastener because it placed her in an environment where she could best expand her knowledge of the machining industry. Plus, it was not far from her hometown of Pelham, N.C.

Russell says she hopes her decision to start a career in machining will motivate other women to take similar career pathways. Women represent only 4.5 percent of all machinists nationwide, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Manufacturing as a whole is a field that women should consider. There are a lot of companies that want to give females the opportunity to be in the manufacturing world,? Russell notes. “You work in a climate-controlled environment. You have great benefits, great starting pay: $40,000-$70,000 per year. That in itself is a confidence booster.?

Russell says she decided to enroll in the Precision Machining Technology program at DCC after seeing the success and job satisfaction of other female program graduates. She wanted to “pay it forward? by being an example to another female pursuing training in advanced manufacturing. DCC’s Precision Machining Technology program combines classroom learning and hands-on training, using equipment such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinery, with the goal of preparing students for jobs in modern industrial manufacturing shops.

The recent DCC graduate has already made her mark on the world of precision machining, by demonstrating her skills in a recent national competition. While Russell placed 20th in the category of CNC Milling at SkillsUSA, she also made history as the first African-American female to compete in a national SkillsUSA machining contest. SkillsUSA showcases the talents of the best students in the nation enrolled in career and technical education.

Russell explains that her parents, Timothy and Valerie Russell, always encouraged her to be the best in everything, and never to let being a female stand in the way of achieving her goals. Not only is Russell unafraid to try new things, but she takes everything she does to the next level. As a childhood drummer, she took apart her first drum set and reassembled it to learn more about how the instrumentation worked. As an artist, she aspires to create new “do-it-yourself? screen printing solutions to share with others. Today, she strives to learn every aspect of the machine shop at Ideal Fastener, from the maintenance and inspection of the machinery to the expert operation of the machinery to create custom parts.

“It’s simple to be average. It takes a special effort to be great and master your crafts,? Russell says. “If you realize you have a God-given talent, you need to put forth your best effort. I just want to make sure I have all the tools necessary for every opportunity that presents itself.?


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