Amy Hunt does not fit the bill as the traditional heavy equipment technician. And that is okay. Better than okay. With the end of the skilled labor shortage nowhere in sight, Amy is the type of technician that the industry is desperately in search of.
Amy’s value to the industry is not rooted in her uniqueness, though. Instead, it is her hardworking ethos and willingness to learn that has been turning the heads of her instructors, supervisors and clients.
“Amy openly admits she didn’t have a lot of experience in this technical field coming into it. But she took every opportunity to learn. Not trying to prove something to anyone, but just a true passion to soak in as much as possible, learn and do the best job she could,” said Amy’s instructor from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Steve Bretl. “As for being a female, that wasn’t even considered a factor in her persistence on what she knew she wanted and could do. Having the right attitude is what it takes – it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Amy saw the potential for success and knew she could achieve it.”
Not only achieving stellar marks in the classroom, Amy was the type of student that made those around her better. Even her instructors. “As an instructor for over 25 years, both in industry and the technical college system, I have to say I have never had a student that challenged me to dig deeper and learn right along with the students. Amy brought that out in me as well as the class, the ‘want’ to learn more.” Bretl added:
This industry is striving for quality technicians. Gender really doesn’t play a role in the possibilities of individual success. But attitude does. I do think that the perspective of what a technician is and what they do is portrayed in a manner that might not be as appealing to women. What needs to be realized is that women have every ability to be just as, and even more, successful as men. The idea that when you go to work you have the ability to troubleshoot, diagnose and repair a piece of equipment that could cost over half a million dollars is what should be emphasized. Being male or female isn’t even a consideration.
To gain insight into Amy’s background and how to attract more female technicians like Amy to the industry, CED went straight to the source. After a couple of brief questions, Amy produced the wonderful autobiography below. In her own words, here is Amy Hunt’s story:
“I’m a Floridian at heart, raised in Plant City. Our town is known for their strawberries, with the self-claimed title of the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. I always enjoy finding Plant City strawberries at the grocery store in March, even up here in Wisconsin.
As a kid I was unbearably shy and yet I was determined to not let that hold me back. In high school I started looking into the military, since I believed it would be the breakthrough for becoming a less timid individual.
Thanks to my parents, always pushing me to better myself, I got it into my head that I needed to choose the toughest branch. Go big or go home, right?
After earning my associate degree at a local community college, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
I served five years as a military police officer. My first duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was deployed to Yemen for five months in 2013 for a security mission and then finished up my enlistment at MCAS Cherry Point. I was honorably discharged in 2015, and by then I had earned the rank of sergeant. I’ll never trade anything for that chapter of my life. To this day I keep in touch with my brothers and sisters. It’s a bittersweet thing to return to civilian life. You’re kind of at a loss when you leave behind a job that wasn’t just a paycheck, but also your lifestyle.
The hardest part was returning to Florida and finding that my military skills didn’t match the trades. The best I could do was a job with security or law enforcement, and that wasn’t going to fulfill me.
Within a month of my discharge I was hired as a helper for an industrial insulation company. The foreman, Tom, was a disgruntled old man, but he taught me a lot about putting in an honest day’s work. I also realized that no matter how crummy the actual job was, I still came home with a sense of accomplishment. I was enjoying the outdoor work and getting stuff done with my hands. The job also brought me to multiple sites, allowing me to meet contractors from all trades: welders, electricians, HVAC techs, mechanics and so on. Any chance I had, I talked to them about their jobs.
Eventually I found my new goal: I wanted to work on heavy equipment. Again, that “go big or go home” mentality.
At the same time that I’m realizing what trade I’m interested in pursuing; I’m also realizing that I don’t want to stay in my home state. I want to go on another adventure. One of the Marines I’d served with was from Illinois and had put the bug in my ear to look at schools in the Midwest.
Now, I’ll admit that during the initial period of research for schools, I spent just as much time watching YouTube videos on Midwest winters. The one time we had snow in North Carolina it was barely three inches, and the base was shut down for four days. And everyone knows winter does not exist in the Sunshine State.
After narrowing down the options, I decided on Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). That decision was the turning point. NWTC set the groundwork and gave me everything I needed to get started in my new career path.
My first day of class, I was nervous and questioning myself for moving to Wisconsin. Some of my classmates were from families with farms and knew their fair share about working on diesels. But within the first month, I found my niche in the class. I asked questions no matter how silly they seemed, and I absorbed it all. By my second year, I was a tutor and helped the diesel program students with coursework and labs.
The instructors at NWTC are the biggest asset for students. They keep tabs on the industry and know all the local companies. They also have meetings with them at the school to ensure that the program is on track with industry needs.
When I started the program, I was hired on as a helper at a semi-truck repair shop. By my second year I knew I wanted more from the job than being confined to a truck bay for eight hours. I wanted what I had as a helper at the insulation company – to constantly see new job sites. I wanted to be a field technician.
During my last semester I was enrolled in a generator course, which was more like an elective. It gave you the basic concepts of generators but was taught from outdated textbooks. All the same, I was fascinated by the material.
So, when I approached my instructors with my concerns about finding a new job, they instantly knew who to put me in touch with. It was my last month in the program when I had an interview with Total Energy Systems (TES). Everything they offered was what I was looking for. After graduating from the Diesel Heavy Equipment Program, I was hired on with TES.
I couldn’t have asked for a better company to start my career with in the generator industry. Right now, I mainly do inspections and maintenance on units of 500 kW and smaller. My manager is a firm believer in learning by doing, so as I gain confidence in working on these units, they’ve been assigning me more service calls. Sometimes it can be as simple as a coolant temperature alarm, or as involved as a “no voltage output” fault. In just the ten months I’ve been with them, I’ve learned an incredible amount about generators, automatic transfer switches, engines and so on.
My branch is based in Milwaukee, so a lot of my work is in southeast Wisconsin, but sometimes I’m sent to jobs in Illinois and Michigan. I’ve seen technology from the 1970s “relay logic” all the way to 2019’s printed control boards. My favorite thing is when they send me on service calls with the other technicians. Most of our work is done solo, so any opportunity I’m given to work with another tech is a treat. These guys are always willing to share their knowledge and set me up for success.
And that’s the thing; I didn’t get this far on my own. Being determined and having a goal in mind got me part of the way. The rest of it was from community support. The technical college gave me the foundation for building my skill set. The instructors provided the connections to industry leaders. My peers encouraged me in my pursuits. Both of my managers, the truck shop and Total Energy Systems, took a chance on hiring me when I had no experience in their trade. They provided opportunities for me to start a new career path and have given me the tools to succeed in this industry.
Even now, I wouldn’t be doing this well if it wasn’t for my team. From the parts department to my technical advisors, anytime I need help, they’re always there.
I’m glad to work for a company that opens doors for my advancement and never hinders my desire to learn as much as I can.
The trades need more technicians. And just like they did in my case, they’re willing to train the right people. If you bring the desire to learn and the dedication for their trade, they’ll take you the rest of the way.”
This desire to learn and dedication for the trade has not gone unnoticed. In the months that Hunt has been with Total Energy Systems, she has gained a reputation for her stellar work ethic.
Amy’s supervisor and Director of Service at Total Energy Systems, Kegan Collins, said, “Amy has been a great addition to the TES family. She is one of the most passionate people I know about working with her hands and is not afraid to take on anything. Her ability to communicate in a professional manner with her peers and customers is beyond her years of experience.” Collins added, “She is highly self-motivated and continually asks high-level questions and challenges processes within her department and the company. She has a genuine desire to improve our organization in the service we provide to our customers as well as the culture within our organization.”
There can be no doubt that Amy Hunt will do great things in this industry. Now how do we find more of her?