Naharah Icuté is used to playing on men’s teams, whether at school, in sports, or at work. It was hardly a barrier when she decided to choose heavy vehicle maintenance as a profession.
She’s been a mechanic at the Globocam Anjou truck dealership for a year and a half.
The 27-year-old was the only girl in her maintenance classes. Out of 100 students throughout the trade school, she thinks there were four or five girls at most.
“I’ve always loved mechanics,” she says. “I wanted to have a military career but realized after a year that that was not what I wanted to do.” A brief look at firefighting school didn’t look much more promising. It was her uncle, himself a heavy vehicle mechanic, who suggested training for a career under the hood.
“I like the mechanics of light vehicles, but I wanted to take it one step further, so I tried my luck and I registered,” Icute says of the training at the Motorized Equipment Trades School in Montreal.
She joined her classmates a week later than the others, and she was unfazed by the fact they were all men. Icute was already a pitcher for a men’s baseball team. This was going to be much the same.
“I tried with a girls’ team, but I didn’t like the kind of competitive spirit that came out of the girls,” said Icute. “Guys have more helping each other. It’s the same here in the workshop. The guys are always going to be there to help you.”
And her grades in the trade school were nothing like she ever experienced in high school.
“Even when I saw my first note, I said ‘Oh! Did I really get 85%?!’” she says. “I was never more than 50%, or 60% sometimes, in high school.”
She achieved that grade and more. In a course on cylinder heads she scored a 95%. Her work on rebuilding an engine head earned a 90%.
An internship followed at Anjou-based Ryder, with a second internship at Globocam Anjou. She has been working the evening shift there since May 2019.
“When I say I’m a mechanic, you always think it’s in the car. There is always astonishment when I say that I am in heavy vehicles,” she says, referring to the way others respond to her role.
Her dad, a 10-year truck driving veteran, is particularly proud.
“When I got hired, the night shift guys didn’t know it was a woman on the team,” she says. It’s similar to the reception she received at school. “On my first day of work, I felt that some might have small doubts about my abilities, but they quickly faded.”
She’s just another member of the team, and she particularly enjoys the physical challenges of heavy vehicle maintenance.
“On my last job, I did all four rear axles, changed the brake pads, lifted the truck, removed all eight wheels. It’s not easy, it’s heavy. I’ve always liked demanding jobs, I’m not afraid to get dirty.”
She would eventually like to reassemble engines and transmissions.
“I did it with a guy on the day shift. I love doing this type of work. Women, we have a meticulous side. “
Why aren’t more women choosing to become heavy vehicle mechanics like she did?
“I would say it’s fear. At first, I was really afraid of being judged,” Icute said.
But her message for other women is to go for it.
“Unfortunately, there are still prejudices, but excuse me, sometimes we do the job better than men.”