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Encouraging women to pursue new careers: Construction equipment repair

Maria Mendez hopes more San Antonio women will consider professions like hers, which offer unique opportunities and career paths.

SAN ANTONIO — HOLT CAT Machine Shop Service Technician III Maria Mendez was first exposed to mechanics and repair while growing up in San Antonio.

"Growing up in my family, there was a bunch of family friends who were mechanics. One of them worked on transmissions, another on highway trucks, so I was exposed to that and got an interest in how that stuff worked," Mendez said. "It was mostly watching at first; I’d watch them work. After high school, I went to college and learned more to do hands-on, myself."

Mendez says she went to St. Philip's College, where part of her certification process included completing 300 hours of working in an actual shop. She put out internship applications and received a call from HOLT Cat about opening.

"My certification in college, there was classes like electrical, hydraulics, power train, brakes; you learn all the basics first before you start getting into trouble-shooting and repairs and all of that," Mendez said. "It was very different from school, coming here and getting to work. It’s different to be hands on. You see the problems with the machines."

That internship turned into a full-time position, and Mendez says one of the best parts is troubleshooting and fixing a challenging problem.

"It feels great, like you accomplished something and did something right. It’s really great to know there was a problem and you fixed it," Mendez said. "I love that I get to come here and do what I like. That’s what it comes down to. I’m interested in it, so it’s easy to come down and do it."

HOLT CAT service manager Brad Brown says there are a wide range of opportunities for Texas workers to learn and grow.

"We’re looking for technicians that can repair machines, but here at Holt Cat, we have technicians who are component builders, hydraulics, pumps and motors, engine technicians," Brown said. "I’ve been in the industry over 20 years and it’s only getting more technologically advanced- electronics over hydraulics; it used to be you had to have wrenches and stuff, now you have to have a laptop to diagnose machines."

Industries like Mendez's, such as heavy equipment repair, often employ many more men than women. Mendez says she currently works with more men than women, but hopes to show other San Antonio girls and women this field can be for them, too. 

"It makes me feel more powerful in a way. Here I am in a man’s field, a man’s job and I’m doing it," Mendez said. "It’s honestly great opportunities and just fun to learn something new and nontraditional. It’s a great company and it doesn’t matter your gender. We’re all family here."

HOLT CAT says the company aims to support all workers, and that women hold positions within leadership as well, including Chief Information Officer Joyce Pingel and its President and Chief Administrative Corinna Holt Richter.

Brown, too, says they aim to support all employees.

"The main thing to know about Holt Cat is how much of a family-oriented, work life balance place this is," Brown said. "They really care about their employees and everybody seems to really enjoy working here."

Brown says the company aims to hire from the community, and offers training courses and internships to help people get their foot in the door.

"There’s several different ways to get into HOLT CAT," Brown said. "We do career fairs and we’re a big military recruiter. We also look at some technical schools. We also push the internship here locally; we pull interns out of Southwest High School and the Alamo Academies, St Philip's."

Brown says internships offer a chance for high school and college students to get hands-on experience, and potentially earn a full-time job. 

To learn more about programs available at St. Philip's, click here.

To learn more about opportunities with HOLT CAT, click here.