Unusual Career for Women: Shovel Truck Operator

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!

Email |


  • Carman Covey says:

    I have worked with Darlene, I spent my entire life as a heavy equipment operator and I can tell you first hand, she is one of the best operators I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

    I have seen her over come obstacles that would cause most men to shrink. She is a credit to the profession of Heavy Equipment Operators and an Icon to what women can accomplish in any field of endeavor.

Leave a Reply

Found that interesting? Learn more about our services
Individual services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
more info
Corporate services
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
more info
Upcoming events
How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
2018-03-27 @ 18.00 - 21.00
Chester&Fields , Rue Père de Deken 14 Brussels , Belgium
Download and listen free podcasts
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage
Free Download
The importance of Hard Talk
Free Download
Taking Care of your COW
Free Download
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace
Free Download