Tianna Walsh: handling huge trucks better than men
As an eight-year old girl, Tianna Walsh adopted the profession of heavy-duty truck driver and caterpillar operator. For her it was easy since her dad, Oliver Walsh, managed Walsh Trucking, a heavy equipment service provider.
Dressed in overalls, Walsh spoke to the SUN last week in an exclusive interview about her introduction to a profession that, until now, has been the exclusive purview of men. Tianna said she was introduced to these monster trucks and caterpillars while she was out in the field with her dad and she knew then that one day she would be operating all the equipment.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I used to go to work with Dad; he had a quarry and a garage and that's how it all started for me. I would go on the truck and view the operation and at times even drive it even if I was too short to reach the pedal," she said. "At the age of 8, Dad had a contract to dredge a small stream next to the Police Coast Guard base in Fond Cole and I went with Dad and he just stood by watching as he allowed me to do the work and ensured that I did it properly."
"Even since that time, I have been on the field with Dad. At the quarry, I would operate all the heavy equipment vehicles in the yard with no problems; it's just that I was just too young to be out there working," she said.
Though women make up more than fifty percent of the work force they have largely been confined to jobs related to waitresses and administrative assistants. But the work environment has been changing as women earn more degrees and therefore men lag behind in professions such as law and medicine.
But women are now "encroaching" on jobs that traditionally were performed by men, such as the operation of heavy equipment.
"Many people assume that operating heavy construction equipment is a man's job," said Tom Jackson in "MEN VS. WOMEN: Who are the better heavy equipment operators?" published by the website "Equipment World".
"After all, these are big, powerful machines. Grease on the hands, mud-caked boots and the smell of diesel in the morning are just part of the job. No place for women, right? Not necessarily. While there are few women operating yellow iron, the ones who do are earning praise."
Jackson said women are better trainees and those who pass the heavy equipment operation courses are "very good" because women pay greater attention to detail.
"They are more conscientious, pay close attention and follow the rules," he said.
In Dominica, Walsh has been following the rules for a long time now.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica on 18 September 2017, Walsh operated the heavy duty equipment like "any man…or better than a man".
Walsh, 21, is now a full-time employee of Walsh Trucking as a heavy-duty operator handling 21-wheeler trucks and caterpillars.
"I have embraced the opportunity and I am enjoying it. It has never been difficult for me entering that field…the only issue that I faced was my height since I could not reach the pedal as I wanted to and hold the steering at the same time and look over. But trust me, I have always felt the gig and gotten the vibes to do it," she said. "Trust me, I feel great doing that work I am comfortable and happy…well, I am not boosting, but I am confident that I am handling it well and even much better and proper that most men. I am not intimidated by any man and don't at all feel inferior to them, it just gives me an extra boast."
She may be one of the few woman heavy duty truck operators in Dominica. Yolande Jno Jules who has worked for the Public Works Department for decades could only recall one female heavy duty equipment operator, when the Sun reached him last weekend by WhatsApp in London on his way from Malta.
Walsh said: "It's not an easy task and especially for a woman to undertake but once you are committed and put yourself seriously into it, then you will succeed. Such a task requires dedication and you have to do it with care and safety since there are lots of risks associated with it. People are craving to see me in action since I do it with a passion with safety and professionally."
She said her father has been her source of motivation and inspiration.
"My father gave me the drive to want to do it. He has always supported me and will never stop. I want to say to all who has given me the motivation and support, thanks you for trusting me and the encouragement; I will not disappoint," Walsh said.
Her sister, Mayola Walsh-Richards, said Tianna "was always into the machines; that was where she wanted to be and Daddy allowed her to do her thing giving her all the safety tips and guided her along the way".