Why Did I Choose an Unusual Career for Women?


Sounds trite, but that’s what started me down this dirt-laden path and an unusual career for women.

Darlean & her shovel - unusual career for women

Darlean on her shovel – unusual career for women

I got into running heavy mining equipment, because I had two small children to support. I could work two or three jobs to make ends meet, or I could get over my fear and provide a life for my kids. I didn’t think much about it being an unusual career for women. My father worked at the mine, so I knew the jobs were there, I just had to get one.

Just a Job Versus an Unusual Career for Women

In 1997, I started working in an open pit coal mine. I considered it a job, a way to support the kids. The pay was better than any other job I’d ever had, and we had health benefits. My son was almost three. My daughter had just turned one and I was scared of raising the kids on my own. I was also terrified of driving the house on wheels that my job required. So, I focused on the goal, providing for my family. I knew where we would be if I didn’t get over my fear. My fear of welfare and starvation was bigger than my fear of driving the house on wheels.

I began to enjoy driving heavy equipment, but it was a job not a career, never mind an unusual career for women. I realized the guys I worked with saw this type of work as a career with opportunities for advancement and challenges, where I saw a rut and a dead end. They were right. I needed to change my perspective. It might be an unusual career choice, but I liked working in the pit. I loved the 4 days off and having my own house. The kids were settled and they had friends at school. Knowing we’d be here for a long time, I needed to set new goals, stay interested and be more valuable to the company. That’s how my job became an unusual career for women.

When my mind set changed, everything changed. I got out of my comfort zone, and applied for every opportunity. My goal was shovel operator because it’s the highest paid job other than management. Like the guys, my goal was to make the most money in the least amount of time.

Working my way through the pit’s hierarchy, I ran rubber tire dozers, graders, d11 cat dozers, and front end loaders. Each change brought new challenges, fears and self doubt. Some were external factors such as working the different machines and a few challenges from the guys, but most of my problems came from my own fears and insecurities.

What’s Next?

I didn’t intend to choose an unusual career for women when I joined the work place many years ago, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love my job. After all, I get to play in the dirt. My family has traveled and had financial security. My children are now moving on to their own adult lives with the knowledge that they can do anything. She can choose an unusual career for women and he can choose one for men, or not.

I have also learned that I need to keep growing and moving, so I’ve taken on new challenges at home and at work! Home is continual renos. At work I’m going to start training as a manager. I am not done with my unusual career for women – yet!