It’s kind of a lifestyle, rather than just a job

Prue Feely Energy, Ultimit/Women in Infrastructure

A giant leap from beauty therapist to line mechanic

Planning a career switch from the farming industry, Madison commenced an application for beauty therapy training. So, becoming a line mechanic might seem like a big leap, but Madison Harvey has never looked back.

Now aged 22, Madison is a qualified line mechanic with Electra, based in Horowhenua. When she left school, she was working as a Farm Manager. Her career took a left turn when she was accepted for enrolment in a beauty therapy course, having already gained a ticket in eyelash extensions. However, a conversation with a friend who was a line mechanic with Electra took her off course yet again.

“He was just talking about what he did for his job, and I was quite intrigued. Thinking ‘I could get into that’”, says Madison. A job opening came up, Madison applied, and the rest is history.

Madison has now been with Electra for four years and has been a qualified line mechanic for over a year, having completed her NZ Certificate in Electricity Supply (Line Mechanic Distribution) Level 4.

Electra is New Zealand’s ninth largest lines company, covering the Kāpiti-Horowhenua region. It is this year’s host sponsor of Annual Connection, the three-day celebration of the Electricity Supply Industry run by Connexis.

Being the only female line mechanic at the company had some challenges initially, from what to do when you need to go to the toilet onsite, to building up her physical strength. But, she says, all along the way her male co-workers were supportive and encouraging.

“You are a bit shy when you start, so it would have been nice to have had another woman there to ask about some things, but in the end, you work it out for yourself,” she says.

When it came to building up her physical strength Madison credits her crew with letting her pace herself and helping her build her confidence.

“If I was initially finding something hard, they would really encourage me, telling me I was nearly there and to keep going. There was no-one being impatient or telling me to hurry up.

“I grew up farming, so I was pretty ‘farm fit’ but you still have to really do the job to get ‘job fit’. It only took me a month or two to build up the correct strength and fitness for this job”, she says.

“The first time I went up the pole I actually pulled up a cross arm [a heavy metal bar used for supporting electricity conductors]. I think that was one of the best things, because it really gave me the confidence that I could do it. But there was never any pressure that I had to do something.”

Madison is also famous at her depot for her organisational skills. She made it her mission to tidy up the trucks, so tools and equipment are easier to find, especially for trainees who are still learning.

“When you’re a trainee, someone asks you to find something like an HD14, but you don’t always know what it is. I was opening every drawer trying to find something that said HD14.

It was pretty hectic. But I fixed that. I went through all the trucks labelling and organising everything.”

Subsequent trainees have said her system helps them progress faster because they can identify equipment more easily.

These days Madison describes working with her all-male workmates as “fun and entertaining”. She also loves the variety her job offers, especially the chance to work outside and work in different locations.

“It’s kind of a lifestyle, rather than just a job.”

Madison is committed to a career in the Electricity Supply Industry and is excited by the opportunities and choices it offers.

“There are so many jobs I want to get into. It’s actually really hard to make a decision,” she says.

“I have been given so many opportunities at Electra.

In the short-term Madison is keen to experience working in the Control Room and has her eye on “giving Live-lining a go”. But in the meantime, she’s always looking for new training and learning opportunities.

“Once I finish something I get a bit fidgety. I always need to find something new to keep me going. I like to be learning.”

Her advice to anybody considering becoming a trainee in the industry is “just go for it!”.

“You’ll work with so many interesting people and you’ll meet a team of people on the block courses that you progress through your training with that you will become good mates with.”

Madison’s advice for any woman considering a career in the sector is to not be intimidated.

“It might feel a bit daunting at first, but you overcome the challenges and figure out the guys are fun to work with.”