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Standing out in a man’s world

Having wanted to go into the medical field when she was younger, crane operations wasn’t something that Kenda Major had thought about as a career.

Now a qualified crane operator in the USA, Kenda is thriving in the traditionally male-dominated environment and is proud to be challenging gender stereotypes:

How long have you been a crane operator?

I’ve been operating for 17 years and working with Sparrows for eight months.

How did you first get into crane operations and what attracted you to it?

I was originally interested in the medical field and did a course to gain my EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certificate, and I wanted to go into nursing but right out of school I felt too young to do that. I had been a stay-at-home mom with my first son and went back to college, but I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. I was working a dead-end job that I knew I wouldn’t stay in. A friend mentioned rigging and what was involved, and I decided to check it out. The money was good, so I set college aside to dive into cranes and rigging!

After learning rigging, getting on-the-job experience, and gaining my advanced rigging certificate, I took as much seat time in the crane as I could and went on to get my certifications for crane operations. From there, I worked my way up from small carry-decks to large rough terrain hydraulic swing, to lattice booms with a variety of tonnage.

What projects have you worked on?

I’m currently going from a dockside job to an offshore production platform, but I’ve also worked across new construction LNG plants, demolition and rebuilds, coil tubing, drilling rigs, refineries, commercial and residential buildings, airport support, and pool installation.

On my last job I operated a 45 tonne NOV Lattice Boom crane but I’ve operated may different types and tonnages. Every crane is different, it is all about how you run it.

What’s the best thing about crane operations and is it a good career for people to get into?

The respect that we receive on the job is one. But the fun part is having a front row seat to it all!

It’s absolutely a good career to get into, if you like algebra! My first answer to ‘how do you become a crane operator’ is always to learn the rigging side of lifting operations first and foremost.

How do you find being a woman in a role that’s in a male-dominated environment?

As a woman in the craft, I’ve found that upholding your reputation is important. There are plenty of eyes on us, but once the ice is broken and they see who you are and what you can do, it becomes normal everyday activity.

Just before covid, I worked for a well-known independent lifting company out of Houston running a 160-ton AT crane for them through a full-term pregnancy. I worked until just five days before I had my son. Although I had to refrain from picking up anything heavy, the daily work was just like any other time. I enjoyed it, I was glad that I did have the opportunity to carry on working as normal.

Why do you think it’s a role that doesn’t appeal to women?

I believe the crane can be very intimidating for most women. Some may feel they are not capable, or simply could not work in this type of environment.

Have you faced any challenges advancing your career?

Challenges are everywhere, in every workplace. Being a woman, I knew I had to step up in confidence to make this work, and I do just that! I’m the only female out there 99% of the time in our department but I always stand my ground and fight for what’s right, and they respect that of me. Once the guys get to know me and they’ve worked with me a bit they just see me as one of them, which helps make it easier.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I look towards becoming a lift trainer, lift director or into management. Overall, I enjoy managing men more than women but don’t tell my wife that!

I’ve always had tremendous support from my family, friends, and co-workers. I owe most of my strength to my wife and kids, they are my absolute favourite to work hard for! I appreciate all the love and support I have received from Sparrows so far and I look forward to what the future has to offer.

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