Surehand Spotlight: Eddie Villafranca

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The Surehand® Spotlight shares just some of the many thousands of stories in the skilled industrial trades, shining a bright light on the hard-working tradesmen and women who build, operate, maintain, and ensure the safety of the world we live in. We also focus on the individuals and organizations working hard to advance industrial sectors and ensure their success over the coming decades.

This month, we train the spotlight on Eddie Villafranca, a pipe welder turned rocket launch technician at SpaceX in Cocoa, Florida. When he’s not helping to further the next generation of space exploration, Eddie loves riding motorcycles and reading.

We recently spoke with Eddie about how he has evolved his welding career by saying yes to new opportunities and advancing his skills and learning.

Photo credit: Eddie Villafranca

Welcome to the spotlight, Eddie. Tell us a little about yourself…

I’m been a pipe welder for eight years. About five years ago, there was a lot of work SpaceX welding the structure for the rockets. Now that we have the structure built, we’re launching. We do mainly maintenance to our pads, to our barges. For example, today we had a launch and that rocket landed on a barge. If there’s any damage to that barge, we are the team that goes in to assess and fix things.

How did you start working for a leading edge technology company like SpaceX?

I started working with them on a contract basis. As a temporary contractor, you always run yourself out of a job. After we built the structure, they laid off all the welders because there was no more welding to do. Fortunately, that’s when SpaceX offered me the position to be a launch technician. So now I get to work with the rocket. We take it from the hangar to the pad, we will go vertical, open manual valves, clear the pad, and then we’re go for launch. My role is more like a technician now. 

Sounds really exciting, Eddie. What’s next for you?

I’ve had the desire to become a welding inspector, so I decided to go back to welding within the company. It wasn’t heavy welding, but we had to do maintenance work. In parallel with welding, I got my Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) training from Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. In April 2020, I got my CWI cert from the American Welding Society (AWS), so I’ll be able to make the transition into the inspection department.

What advice would you give someone who just entered the welding trade—or is thinking about doing so?

To me, the most important thing for an upcoming welder building their career would be to start learning all that they can where they are, with what they have.

Develop a “constantly learning” attitude, because that will define your altitude.


Hero image photo credit: Eddie Villafranca

Our thanks to Eddie for making time to share his story and industry insights with us.

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