AEMP Technician of the Year Nominee: When You Put Effort Into a Hardship, Everything Gets Easier
Monday, April 3, 2017
Posted by: AEMP
"When you put effort into a hardship, everything gets easier."
That's a simple truth AEMP Technician of the Year nominee N. Boyce lives by. Based in Juneau, Alaska, hardship is in good supply, which is just the way Boyce likes it.
Living and working in Alaska was always Boyce's plan. Growing up in rural Washington, then Hawaii, Boyce was always laser-focused on a career that used mechanical skills and allowed for maximum time challenging Alaska on a one-to-one basis.
Boyce's father was an operating engineer and farmer, and mother home schooled the budding tech along with three brothers. Farm chores where split four ways and the kids pulled their own weight. Mechanical skills were learned by doing. "I loved it and always knew I wanted to be a mechanic."
After high school, Boyce worked in several paper mills doing maintenance and mechanical work. When the lumber and paper industries began to slow several years down the road, Boyce was laid off and had to make a decision. Because the paper mill jobs were union, training was made available to the laid off workers. By then, Boyce had a house and boat and wanted to take advantage of the training but didn't know which path to take. Learning to be an electrical engineer sounded like a possibility, with a job with Microsoft as the target, but being trapped in an office was just not an option.
Scanning the available programs at Clark College, Boyce noticed the three-year diesel mechanic program. Boyce wondered if what had been mostly a hobby, having worked on cars for fun in high school, could be a career. Thirty-six months seemed doable, although Boyce's father expressed some doubt about his offspring's choice of career, saying it might be too hard.
In typical head-on fashion, Boyce finished in 15 months with a 3.99 GPA. Age 25 and armed with the diesel mechanic degree, Boyce started a dream career as a field equipment technician in the wilds of Alaska.
When asked "Why Alaska?", Boyce will tell you that besides the beautiful surroundings, the state's culture supports individuality. "Alaska is where the weird people go," Boyce says. Having been home school as a kid in a very rural area, Boyce spent a lot of time alone or in small social settings. Later in public high school, Boyce says, "I never felt like I fit in. Here in Alaska there isn't much of a class system and you never know if you're working next to a millionaire or not. We're all just working against the land."
But Boyce says that the challenges the land present are part of what makes the job so gratifying. When a machine goes down that supports the lives of many people in a small area, getting it up and running again brings Boyce a deep inner satisfaction. "When the job is done, I know what I do is needed."
After several years as a field tech with Caterpillar, Boyce cashed out a 401k and opened an independent shop in Juneau. Winter it is usually just a one-person operation but in summer up to six employees make up the staff. The shop has been so successful they had to take down the sign and stop advertising because they couldn't keep up with the business coming in.
Nancy doesn't go to work being a woman. She views her job as one that requires specific skills and competencies, not gender identification
Admittedly, when she first began working as a diesel field technician, she had the occasional customer question if she was strong enough to do the job, while others suggested her life would be easier if she just married a rich man and let him take care of her.
Nancy shrugs off those comments. What matters to her is doing her job well and getting her customers up and running again. Her reliability, dedication and good work are what her customers remember first.
When a woman becomes successful in a less traditional career, she may be asked to use her success to highlight some of the challenges and bias that can make it difficult for other women to enter and do well in male-dominated jobs. And, while Nancy has experienced some of those challenges, she puts distance between herself and the groups who complain about unfairness. Nancy chooses to rise above the bias and refuses to feed it any of her energy. "I don't recognize inequality. I focus on making sure I meet industry standards."
Nancy will tell you her parents are the foundation on which her success is built. "My parents are my greatest gift. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without their support."
Her father didn't try to dissuade her from pursuing her technician dream, but only cautioned her to be aware not many women have followed that path. Nancy appreciated his concern, understanding that he wasn't telling her she couldn't do it, only that not many other women had tried. That was exactly the right measure of support she needed.
Listening to her describe her career, Boyce sounds almost spiritual. "My heart gets so big when I'm able to help other people and get the machines that they depend on running again." She doesn't quit until the job is finished.
Living in Alaska has been Nancy's dream since she was a kid. "I love meeting the challenge of Alaska. It is physically hard work living here but I love every minute of it. It resonates somewhere in my being," she says. Tough mechanical work that demands her personal best everyday is also the passion she was born with. Nancy Boyce is one of those fortunate few who lives her dream.
Off time, of which there isn't much, is spent hunting and fishing. However, Boyce says, "If I'm awake, I'd rather be working."
There is a passion in Boyce's voice that expresses the gratitude of working in the right job, in the right place, for the right reasons. " I'm the happiest person on the planet."
That's an enviable place to be, especially if your first name happens to be Nancy.
N. Boyce, an exceptional AEMP 2017 Technician of the Year nominee.