We chatted with Olivia Anderson-Gregg to learn more about her journey into the trades and experience as a heavy equipment mechanic. Here’s what she had to say:

  1. What made you choose a career in heavy equipment?

Growing up in Philomath, Oregon, a logging town, I was introduced to heavy equipment at an early age. I became fascinated with automotive mechanics, but never considered it for a career because of my traditional upbringing. I made my way to college and found myself switching majors, unsure about my career path. One summer a friend of mine was checking out the welding program at Linn-Benton Community College and I decided to go with him. The heavy equipment technician program was right next door. I wandered over there, got connected with the right people, attended a program meeting and the rest is history. Eventually, I applied for a sponsorship through Papé Machinery, upon completing my program they reimbursed my tuition in full. I’ve been with Papé for four years now and wouldn’t have it any other way.

2. What are the top benefits for being in the industry?

The possibilities are endless, especially working for a company like Papé. If I get tired of working on farm equipment, I can try my hand at forestry or even go into a more corporate role like sales. It’s really empowering to know that I can try something new and have the support of my company. That’s what sets the construction industry apart from the rest. My job is also different every day and I love that aspect of it. It’s rewarding learning something new and applying that knowledge down the line to help a customer. For instance, in my industry summer is the busy season. When a client brings in a piece of equipment, they are losing money by the minute not having it out in the field. It’s the most fulfilling feeling being able to turn around a repair before they even leave.

3. For future heavy equipment mechanics: How do they get started?

I’m a big proponent for “it never hurts to ask.” Even if you don’t think you’re qualified or ready, it’s always worth giving it a try. If you see a company around town and are interested in learning more, stop in and see if you can setup a meeting. It’s also worth checking out your local community college. The teachers and advisors are great resources and will get you in touch with the right people. That’s how I learned about Papé’s sponsorship program. Beyond that, be punctual and dependable, the rest you’ll learn on the job.

4. What advice do you have for other women looking to enter the skilled trades?

I’m 5’4, working on big equipment. There are times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the job given the large and heavy equipment. Sometimes I ask for help, but there are also instances when my taller co-workers can’t fit into spaces and come to me. If you’re worried about your size, it’s not an issue. There’s always going to be a workaround. As far as workplace culture goes, I’ll admit I had some misconceptions about the industry. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone on my team is incredibly supportive and made my experience positive. They truly have my back. I know that isn’t the same for everyone. For all the women who’ve had a bad experience, don’t put up with it. There’s a better job waiting for you.

5. What’s a surprising fact about your job that you wish more people knew?

It’s a ton of fun, especially in the shop. We work hard, but we enjoy what we do and make sure it’s a positive environment for everyone. I truly enjoy coming to work and interacting with other technicians and the sales team. It’s a great place to be.

Olivia Anderson-Gregg is a heavy equipment mechanic for Papé Machinery in Tangent, Oregon.

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