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In the Rough-Cut Environment of the Heavy Equipment Shop, Female Technician Melissa Petersmann Holds Her Own

The heavy equipment industry offers fantastic opportunities for people who are willing to work hard and though the industry’s technicians have historically been almost entirely male, more and more young women are pursuing diesel technician careers. For women like Melissa Petersmann, it’s a perfect fit.

Petersmann needed no introduction to the world of heavy equipment repair, having grown up with a father who operated and repaired logging equipment. Over the years, she developed an appreciation for equipment herself. However, for Petersmann, choosing a diesel technician career was about more than that: It was a strategic decision that allowed her to do what she loves – on all counts.

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“My inspiration (for becoming a heavy equipment mechanic) is no different from the men (who choose this type of career): I enjoy equipment and I enjoy making money,” Petersmann said. “I had two options for myself when I graduated high school: training horses or going to school for diesel mechanics. I decided I wanted to be able to have a steady job and afford to have my horses, so I went with diesel mechanics. I started on semis in school and went from there, and ended up at a John Deere dealership two months after graduating from Wyotech. I haven’t looked back since; I love what I do.”

Not including her schooling, Petersmann has more than two-and-a-half years of diesel repair experience under her belt, and has worked on both John Deere construction and John Deere agriculture equipment. She currently works at 4Rivers Equipment in Cheyenne, Wyoming – a John Deere agriculture equipment dealer – where she enjoys doing major repairs.

“I love the challenge of major repairs,” Petersmann said. “Also, it’s always fun to get to drive or operate machines after repairs to verify the fix. My favorite thing about working at 4Rivers is the challenge of learning all the agriculture machines. Even though they’re still John Deere, agriculture equipment is a whole different world than construction equipment.”

Some women might find the idea of working in a “rough-cut,” male-dominated environment a little intimidating, but not Petersmann – to her, the shop feels just like home.

“Honestly, I grew up in a rough-cut environment, in an atmosphere similar to a shop,” she said. “So, to me, (working primarily with men) isn’t that big of a deal. Shops are like big families and it doesn’t really matter that it’s mostly men. The men I work with are some of the most respectful and fun people I’ve encountered. They are very encouraging and supportive.”

However, while Petersmann is happy to work alongside the men in the shop, not everyone has always been happy to have her there. That doesn’t bother Petersmann; she lets unfair criticism – gender based or otherwise – just roll off her back and encourages other young women pursuing diesel technician careers to do the same.

“I’ve worked in three shops now and...have only run into one man that wasn’t happy to have me on the team,” she said. “Understand the field you’re going into: A shop is a unique and rough-cut environment, which some young women may not be used to, and that’s OK. You have to be willing to take a joke and have a little fun. Mechanics get through the day by giving each other hell. That’s just how it is, so don’t take things so personally. Work hard and prove yourself.”

Less than three years into her career, Petersmann already has big plans for the future. She’s working toward becoming proficient in all John Deere agriculture and construction equipment, and hopes to one day become a shop foreman, have her own equipment shop or become a John Deere Capstone instructor.

When she’s not busy working, Petersmann enjoys riding her two BLM mustangs – one of which she broke herself – building personal trucks, watching top fuel dragsters, and riding trail and track dirt bikes.

For more information on 4Rivers Equipment, visit www.4riversequipment.com.

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