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Friday, June 10, 2022

Staff Spotlight Jennifer, West Edmonton Heavy Equipment Technician

As a full -time Heavy Equipment Technician on top of being a full-time mom, we can only assume that Jen is as busy as it gets in this stage of her life. With a young toddler at home and a new little one due to arrive in early July, we sat down with Jen to discuss her experience as a woman in the trades.

Growing up Jen wanted to be an artist and was even accepted into art school in her earlier years but decided to stick to the path that she was already on, which at the time was the oil rigs. There are many similarities if you compare artistry and trades work, with the obvious one being a hands-on career, so it made sense that she was naturally drawn to this line of work. However, with the rig lifestyle there also comes negatives. “After I had enough of the rig lifestyle, I got a road construction job which I loved. After a few years I realized that I no longer wanted to be laid off for part of the year, which was the norm on both the rigs and in construction. I thought that a trade would be a good way to continue to do physical work, which I enjoyed, but without the seasonal layoffs.”

When Jen decided to make a change into a more seasonally steady career, she reached out to a company called Women Building Futures, which helped her inspire her curiosity and assist her in finding out what trade sparked her interest the most. “I finished their pre-trades program and decided that I enjoyed most of the trades that I got to try my hand at there. My brother was a Heavy Equipment Technician apprentice before I took the program and seemed to love his job, telling me it was something different everyday which really appealed to me. I also have always been amazed by and loved working around equipment. So, I decided I would get into the Heavy Equipment Technician trade. That was in 2011, it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life!”

When asked how it is to be a female in the industry, her response was, “I cannot speak to every woman’s experience in the industry. I am very happy to have the background that I do, because it gives me the tough skin and drive you need to be successful as a woman in any unconventional job. There will always be people who don’t think a woman belongs in a shop or, who are amazed to see a woman in a shop. I have had to work harder to earn respect at workplaces, and while attending NAIT most often I was the only female student in the class. The hardest part is probably having your skills questioned constantly based on your gender and nothing else.”

It's no surprise that being a technician is stereotyped as a male dominated career, but Jen proves time and time again why that label should be a thing of the past. With an amazing attention to detail, a drive to diagnose and repair an issue on all equipment in our shop, all the while keeping a positive attitude, she adds an extra element to our team that does not go unnoticed. She is an amazing example of breaking down gender barriers, and proving those who question, severely wrong.

With a variety of work experience under her belt but never at an equipment dealership, we wondered how she felt about the change. “When I first started working here, I was nervous about working at a dealership. I thought it would be very corporate and stuffy. Boy was I wrong! The thing I like the most about working here is the people and the family atmosphere that is created by them. Our Compact Construction Equipment team works really well together and makes coming to work easy. Everyone in the building understands and respects that we all have lives outside of work which is super important to me.”

What does pregnancy look like as a technician you wonder? “For most of this pregnancy, work was business as usual. I consulted with my doctor, who advised me to continue working as I normally would making adjustments where needed and listening to my body. The rest of my department was made aware of my pregnancy and were available to help when heavy or awkward lifting was required. As a smaller person I have always used whichever tools were available to me to ensure I would have a long injury free career, this has served me well through pregnancy because I could continue doing many jobs normally. As I outgrew my coveralls and had a harder time climbing in and out of machines my job scope changed in the shop. I have been helping with training new techs, working to help get reels completed for the golf department, assisting any of the other techs in the shop when asked, and most recently cleaning and organizing the shop tool room which is quite an undertaking! Continuing to work and be active has helped me to feel normal and keeps my body feeling as good physically as it can. At times other people in the building have expressed concerns about me “overdoing it” so it feels like I have many mothers at work with me, haha! The only other adjustment I have needed to make are short breaks to sit when my body tells me I need it.”

Empowering and inspiring are two words that come to mind when you think of being almost nine months pregnant and still working a physically demanding job during the week, while simultaneously being a full-time mom. “I learned the true meaning of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” when I returned to work after my son was born. Being a full-time mom and working full-time (with a husband that works out of town every other week) means there is not a lot of time left for me. When I returned to work, I felt like I was failing at all parts of my life. It has taken some time, but our family has developed a routine that works for us - just in time to add another baby to the mix!”

Her role models in life she says are her parents because they are both hard workers who do everything with integrity. They raised her to believe she could do anything she set her mind to. The apple does not fall far from the tree in this case, as Jen also shines of the same energy. “That has served me well as a female in the industry. Also, my role models would be all the female trailblazers that went before me and started breaking down barriers so I could have opportunities that weren’t necessarily there for the generation before us.”

Jen is incredible at what she does both in her career and her home life, and we are so happy to have her a part of our team and the Martin Deerline family. She is a true inspiration to other females, proving that being in the trades industry is a possibility for all, no matter your gender. We wish her all the best on her upcoming maternity leave, and hopefully somewhere in the hustle and bustle we call life, she finds some much-deserved free time for herself.

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