#WyoStrong: Lander engineer reinvents herself to weather the downturn

For Karen Hays of Lander it was a quadruple whammy. The woman who raised her was dying, she was going through a divorce, she had two children at home and on February 3rd, the pink slip came from Newpark Drilling Fluids. Hays was a mud engineer for over 10 years who worked all over the Rocky Mountain Region. "I loved my job, and I miss my job," she said, "but it was time for a change. Trying to juggle my boys' activities and my nannies as a single mom when I was gone for 2-3 weeks at a time was a challenge." Hays said she saw the downtown coming and noted it usually happened in regular cycles. "I went through downturns from 2005-07; again in 2009-11 and now here we are again," she said. "I knew it was coming again, so it was time to get ready." Hays realized she needed to be as self-sufficient as possible on her plot of land north of Lander because she knew the money she had been earning would be very hard to find again, and she said this bust wouldn't turn around again anytime soon. "Two years at a minimum and perhaps up to five years, this time." Hays said her older boy's 4H projects have helped keep food on the table. "My son is interested in Animal Husbandry, and he raises dairy goats and sheep. We have chickens and ducks and we are starting a honey bee hive project," Hays said. "And I hunt for meat every fall and I have a freezer full of elk." The Hays homestead produces its own milk, cheese, and eggs, and with Karen's hunting prowess, meat. "My older son, thanks to the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, can now sell goats milk at the farmer's markets, so it's helping to make us as sustainable as possible," she said. But Hays also knew that she needed to create a new career path for herself. Nursing is the new career that will carry her into the future, she said she decided, but it takes time to build up the requisite courses before being accepted into nursing school. "So that's what I'm doing now, taking all the classes I need in the interim, and to keep the lights on." It was an experience being isolated on the rig sites that gave her the spark of an idea. "When you're out there, you're all by yourself and far from anything, so we had to fix anything that broke and needed to stay in communication. If a laptop was dropped, we had to get it going again, and I did that." [image: Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.59.33 AM.png] Taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself with her layoff, Hays enrolled in a online cellular phone repair class. Six weeks later, she started Cellular Hays, a repair service based out of her home. "I have a drop off location at the Wind River Awards and can usually get a job done in 2-3 hours." Her service includes replaced cracked cell phone or tablet screens, water damage, worn out USB ports, bad batteries and people who drop their computers and the LCD monitor blows out. "You know, with big black blobs in the screen." Where does her resiliency come from? "My grandmother raised me, she was a product of the Depression, and she always impressed on us to save our pennies. She worked at a soda shop, at Woolworths and met her husband in Pueblo, CO, and together they started a submersible pump company," she said. "It wasn't about making money, but making sure their kids were taken care of." So Hays said she learned those lessons of hard work and savings, and it's helping her raise her family now and making ends meet. #county10 #buckrail #reboot #springcity #dally #oilcity #county17 #shortgo #news