Can you think of a more critical position on a job site than a crane operator? Think about being responsible for picking every load on a job and the safety of everyone on site. That's exactly what this months Spotlight Liz Brown does daily. She had the motivation to force her way into her dream job as a crane operator in an industry dominated by men and hasn't looked back since.
My background is pretty basic, I've been married once and got divorced after seven years. I have three children, two boys and one daughter, they are all grown up now. During my second pregnancy I went to school for cosmetology in the early 90's and began to manage a hair salon, I became bored with that and then went into hair replacement systems for people with scalp disorders, and worked with cancer patients. I met a gal one evening while out who did dirt work for a company in town and eventually my love for being outdoors took me in the same direction. For years I labored for dirt work and asphalt companies here in Salt Lake City. From there I just kept doing any job that would keep me in construction. I loved the work, people, and the challenge.
Skills and Experience
I spent years out of work due to some personal battles and hardships, in 2009 decided to get my flagging certification and start all over again. In August of that year I was hired by Jacobsen Construction and that's where my journey truly began in construction. I flagged for a year at City Creek as it was being built and it was amazing! In 2010 I was moved into a Laborer position. There were cranes everywhere and I was in awe. It wasn't long before JCC gave me the opportunity to learn about rigging, so I could be their first female rigger under the hook of many tower cranes. They also had a 28T hydro crane they let me learn about. In a three year period I went from flagging, to getting rigging certification, became a hook coordinator(rigger supervisor), forklift certification, and NCCCO large hydro certification. After rigging at City Creek and a few months of seat time in the 28T I was transferred to a project with three tower cranes. I showed interest in climbing and operating, Jacobsen's personel went well out of their way to get me into the seat on all three cranes and let me sit in on third party inspections. I can't say enough about that team and how they helped me grow. I also found another company in town who had a self-erector tower crane, they let we operate on Saturdays to practice on the same type of crane my test would be on. In April of that year I flew myself to Oregon and passed my NCCCO Tower Certification test. In July the same company that let me use the self-erector Zitting Construction offered me a job in Denver Colorado, knowing I had experiance on the ground and in the seat. That would be my first tower crane job!
NCCCO Tower Crane Certification
NCCCO Large Hydro Crane Certification
Class A CDL
Multiple Refinery Certifications
What drove you to your career in working with cranes?
I was having the time of my life at the City Creek Center project flagging at a gate for Jacobsen Construction and had no idea being around so many cranes would lead to a career. Once I started rigging I would talk to the operators and was probably the biggest pain in the rear, because I couldn't ask enough questions. One day I was rigging for one of Mountain Cranes operators who was running a 110T Grove, he took the time to explain the levers and computer to me. I went home, took money out of savings and was enrolled in the next NCCCO class the next day. My heart said "jump" and I did! That was the best decision I ever made. I'm now a crane operator for Mountain Crane and it happens to be running a 110T Grove, lucky me!
Where do you find the drive to peruse your goals?
The drive is in my heart. It always has been and always will be. I work pretty hard mostly due to being twice the age of some of the guys I work with and of course not as strong, so I'm slower but at the end of the day if I've solved problems, accomplished the job and know that I've put safety first 100% of the time I come home feeling accomplished while living the reality of my dream job. Lucky me!
Have you ever been told you couldn't do what you want?
Honestly no, but it has been implied many times. There's always going to be people out there who don't think other people (women) should be where they're at in any job. You always have a few bad apples everywhere you go. These aren't people I pay attention to, I've always been busy asking questions and reading the information I needed to rise above. You have to keep moving forward!
What do you think could be done to help women in construction and are they treated differently?
Support and job opportunities are crucial for growth. I feel as if the information and the opportunities are out there for everyone. If women want to grow they can. It's a lot of hard work, but if you're willing to ask the questions (even the dumb ones) somebody's going throw the ball in your court and lead you in the direction you want to go. This would be my advise to anyone, not just women. If you want something bad enough you'll get it.
In my journey I haven't been treated that differently. I've been offered the same experiences, information, and job opportunities as everyone else. If at all the different part is the help I'm offered when I'm physically struggling with something heavy. I'm asked a lot of questions about the crane and how I operate it or "where can I go to do that?" People look a little surprised to see me in a crane, because it's not everyday you get a female operator. It doesn't take long for them to get comfortable with me, I love that! Jacobsen, Zitting Bros., and Mountain Crane were all blessings in my life. I've had nothing but support my whole construction journey. I hope all women are as blessed as I have been. Don't ever give up on your dream, find the people who are going to help you make it happen.
Words of Advise from Liz
If you really want to succeed, I believe that you need to focus on the big picture. There are going to be challenges and fears to overcome. For me it was heights, but once I learned about the structure of towers and spent time in some I felt comfortable. If you let your fears stop you from trying new things you limit yourself so much, this I do know. Set your goals high, be with people who inspire you and surround yourself with people you trust to push you past your comfort zones. Take ownership and have pride in any job you do. These few things have helped me a lot. Be yourself, do your best, and be safe, that's all anyone has ever asked of me. It works, have confidence in you, it's your dream!