23 Jun CJ and Her Excavator
Episode 47: Welcome to the She Builds Show, I’m your host, Stefanie Olson. I’m so excited to introduce you to today’s guest, CJ Devereux. CJ is a trim excavator operator in the construction industry. She’s worked within the civil & construction industry for 10 years and have been an excavator operator for the past 5 of those years. In 2021, she took this foundation and established Civilspec Resources Pty Ltd. As a Director and Operator, CJ now has several loyal clients that she services with the use of her 5.5Tonne Hitachi Excavator.
Ready? Let’s go…
• I started university doing a degree that I didn’t know what I was going to do with, so that was sport science, and I didn’t use that and I needed to fund that life, and I just reached out to our recruitment agency, and the highest paying low degree background was just laboring in the industry. Yeah, so I started in it that way, so I was in the trenches with a group of people, and it was just a really good camaraderie at that stage, and I was just watching this machinery all day and fell in love with… I don’t know the excavator looked like a swan. This beautiful thing, let me drive it. How did you get in that seat… How long did it take? It took six years to get into it, and I guess eight to be accepted being into it. (03:58)
• So I went, I got my excavator ticket anyway, that was just super easy to get, it was like a two day course. But I came back to the ticket and it didn’t mean anything. And then, I don’t know, over the years, I changed jobs and there was like, I feel like five men who really gave me the time and sort of gave me a go. But it did take a long time to build that sort of relationship. But even still, I think the first two years of operating it was short-lived, like I would jump in the machine and within moments I’d have someone yelling at me to get off of it… I did spend a lot of years crying in those machines. (06:58)
• But that was probably a year and a half, just under two years like difference between then to now. And I did start doing some business plans and was preparing to get my own machinery. Because I just realized that, Yeah, it was finally at a point where I had the confidence in my work and that I could do it and go out on my own, and I just wanted to create… Culture became such a big focus for me, and I just really wanted to be able to make a change with that. So I started planning, and that job where I was being praised and everything, I ended up working so much that I burnt myself out. And I was getting ready to work, but I couldn’t leave the room, up on site, like I was dressed and ready for work, but my body just wouldn’t step out the door. It was very bizarre, and I had to make a decision to sort of say, Well, I think my emotional mental well-being needs prioritize now, and I left that with no work to go to, I was like, Something’s not right here with myself and I just need to go home. And I think for four weeks, I didn’t have work and it just… I don’t know, it just also fell into place, I got the excavator within six weeks at that moment. (14:57)
• So it’s great to see the moment that more and more females are coming into the industry, and every time one comes on site, if it’s for like my client, I will naturally take her under my wing and… Yeah, give her go on the excavator and try and encourage her to stay, because it is a bit intimidating at first. But I’ve also just got my first mentee, so I’m a mentor. Yeah, and that’s awesome. Awesome. Yeah, it’s crazy to think that I’m here after going through that, but yeah, I just… I feel like the industry needs to change. And it is great to see the culture has definitely changed, they’re still so far for it to go, but I’ve definitely seen men’s belief systems change right before my eyes over the course of these 10 years, and… That is everything. (18:50)
ABOUT CJ DEVEREUX:
CJ is a trim excavator operator in the construction industry. She’s worked within the civil & construction industry for 10 years and have been an excavator operator for the past 5 of those years. In 2021, she took this foundation and established Civilspec Resources Pty Ltd. As a Director and Operator, CJ now has several loyal clients that she services with the use of her 5.5Tonne Hitachi Excavator.
As a uni student CJ began working through a labour hire company as a drainers offsider. She was in the trenches watching an excavator all day and working with a small crew. The comradery in this environment itself won her over instantly, although, she was mesmerised by the excavator’s capabilities, (prior to that, she never had an interest in machines). She began asking questions about them and how to become an operator- she was met with comments such as “its a mans role” and rather tried to be convinced to learn the roller, as that’s female friendly. Needless to say, CJ still did her excavator course, she had the ticket but no help or experience to get a position. CJ asked hiring companies if she could have them teach her skills. She reached out to companies to work for no pay, purely experience, with no luck. She continued to labour and with relentlessness she was fortunate to meet a select few key men on my journey who gave her a go. Otherwise, no mentors, n0 training or support, CJ self taught through failed attempts. She risked her reputation and embarrassed herself on many occasions, solely for the opportunity to learn.
With no upbringing around construction and no family/friend links in this field prior, this has been the most challenging yet rewarding path to undertake. CJ actively uses these prior challenges and triumphs to share with the community; doing all she can to play a role in changing the culture and trailblaze the way forward for women. She recently become a mentor in the NAWIC and Veraison mentoring program. CJ is on the NAWTC ‘women in trades committee’. She naturally takes on a guidance and support role when new females arrive on clients sites and she’s in the process of being a part of a women’s refuge expansion workforce. Alongside these, she’s a big advocator for volunteering within the co1nmunity. CJ took the opportunity to register her excavator with ‘Make-a-Wish’ foundation to be able to assist in fulfilling a terminally ill child’s wish to operate construction machinery, should a child possibly have this as their wish.
Every day was a challenge but it made every win along the way all that much more victorious. It was incredibly rewarding to watch these men’s beliefs systems change from seeing an excavator operator as a ‘males role’, to celebrating her skill set and providing overwhelming praise. This was never of their wrong doing, no one knew any different. They never had women challenge those beliefs, and what a warming journey it was to witness firsthand a cultural shift. CJ has the utmost appreciation for the several key men that gave her a go initially, and not a day goes by where she doesn’t value their pivotal role in her career. All the tears, the knock downs and challenges from the past ‘male culture’ has all been worth it to finally be able to stand in confidence with her skill set today and role model to other women that there is no glass ceiling.
CJ’s passion fuels a burning desire to create a legacy and forge a pathway for the next generations of women to embark on a career similar with acceptance, equality and support. Her vision is to inspire women around her that anything is possible.
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