After seeing an excavator many years ago, Jenn White was drawn to heavy machinery.
Jenn’s hustle and determination took her on some wild adventures before she became one of the few female heavy equipment operators in Washington State.
The story is related in Jenn’s own words.
Growing Up on Fox Island
I grew up on Fox Island in the ‘70s and ‘80s back when I could ride my horse all over the island on old logging roads. My brother and I were lucky kids growing up there. Crime was basically non-existent, and all the kids on the island pretty much knew each other. We roamed the island freely.
My friends and I were with each other from preschool to high school. I had a job throughout high school and have not stopped working hard since.
Adventures at Sunriver
After graduation, I moved to Oregon and worked at Sunriver Lodge and Resort for the next six years. I started at the front desk and worked my way up, filling in wherever needed. I even worked as a wrangler at the horse stables for a season taking guests on trail rides.
It was the best job for staying active. I worked at night, and during the day I skied, rode snowmobiles and mountain bikes, kayaked, canoed, and played golf.
The first time I noticed an excavator was during one of my commutes from Bend to Sunriver. An excavator reached out and gracefully grabbed a boulder off the side of the road. Watching it made me want to work on heavy equipment.
After Sunriver, I worked at a variety of jobs to support myself and my animals: in the cosmetics department at Nordstrom, at a catering business, and as a waitress at a bar.
Decorating Christmas Trees for the Holidays
I eventually found my way to Watson’s Greenhouse and Nursery. I designed displays for outdoor living and learned how to blend colors and the textures of plants with ceramic pots and furniture, creating soothing atmospheres for homeowners.
At Christmas every year, I decorated about 50 themed Christmas trees. Some of the trees I decorated were auctioned off at The Festival of Trees and One Enchanted Evening for the Children’s Therapy Unit at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Becoming a Washington Rock Equipment Operator
Even though I enjoy decorating at Watson’s, my interest in heavy equipment stuck with me.
A friend told me that Washington Rock Quarries was looking for a nightshift weighmaster. I started at the King Creek Pit scale house and paid close attention to how the trucks were being loaded and how the large haul trucks moved material around. Little by little I learned where each type of material was located at both King Creek and Kapowsin Quarry.
Eventually I got my MSHA training and learned how to operate equipment at both King Creek Pit and Kapowsin Quarry. I became one of the few woman equipment operators in Washington State.
My co-workers were amazingly supportive. It’s awesome to have them on my side, cheering me on. They taught me many different skills, like which fluids go where and how to conduct a pre-operation inspection on machines.
They taught me how to approach a pile of material under the belt from the side and how to mix material together to meet job requirements. I learned how to pull out hard to get material under the belts of the wash plant. I asked questions whenever needed so that I could better understand pieces of equipment.
I’ve driven both a haul truck and loader at Kapowsin and recently learned to drive the CAT 740 six-wheel haul truck and the 992 CAT loader, which is a big deal to me. I hope to continue to learn how to operate new pieces of equipment and master each one.
Every day gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of my shift. I’m fulfilled with the work I do. When you do something you enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work at all. I learn something new and have fun every day.
My Advice to Women Breaking into Male-Dominated Industries
I encourage you to push forward and find a way to break through the barrier. Find someone willing to teach you. Don’t give up, even if those around you aren’t supportive. I wish I had learned long ago how to operate equipment, to show people I could do it. I look forward to each daily adventure in a machine.
Thank you to everyone at Washington Rock for giving me the chance to pursue a career I had only dreamed of before now.
Learn more about Washington Rock on our About Us page.