Mechanic Makes Her Way
Following a passion paves way to opportunities
By Jami Stall
Kellie Einck thinks it’s pretty cool that a woman invented the first windshield wiper in 1902, and then another one created the early version of the turn signal 12 years later.
The 23-year-old Iowa native with a penchant for mechanical engineering can relate to those trailblazing women from more than a century ago. Einck also likes working on cars — and trucks, tractors, combines and tillage equipment. So much, in fact, during her junior year of high school, she concurrently enrolled in a two-year diesel technology program at a local community college.
As an FFA member, Einck also logged hours as a mechanic and service technician at a small auto garage to fulfill an FFA supervised agricultural experience requirement. Because of her hard work, she was named the 2017 American Star in Agricultural Placement winner, one of the organization’s highest honors.
“Not to get all feminist on you, this wasn’t about me proving myself. It was about me doing something I like,” Einck explains. “Working at something eight hours a day for 60 years is a long time to do something you hate, so I went into something I really, really enjoy.”
The only female in all her diesel tech classes, Einck saw it was a male-dominated industry for which she was training. But that observation had no effect on her career course. Because it involves so much applied science and mechanization these days, industry experts say it’s becoming more of a technology field. “As in the ag world of diesel equipment, everything runs with vast electrical units, controllers and computers,” Einck says. “You need more than a wrench or screwdriver to fix it. Tractors use satellite applications and software technology, and users need a computer and cell phone to operate them. So it’s not as much a male-dominated field as it is a smart- and hardworking-person’s field.”
For those skills, her self-confidence and professional preparedness, she gives props to FFA. “It’s tremendous how much FFA teaches you about leadership, how to present yourself and have good work ethics. FFA helped so much,” she says.
After receiving her high school diploma and associate’s degree, Einck wasted no time putting her knowledge (and self) to work. “I was 18 years old, and I remember walking into the John Deere dealership [AgriVision Equipment Group]. Here was a shop full of middle-aged mechanics — about 25 of them, all men. They kind of looked at me like I was crazy, and I looked at them like they were scary,” she says. “Now we’re all good friends and have so much respect for each other.”
Nervous to admit it, Einck told the staff that though she had a diesel tech degree, she’d never worked on ag equipment. “I said, ‘I might be underprepared for the ag world, but I’m willing to work hard and learn how to do it,’ and they appreciated my honesty.”
Four years later, Einck now balances budgets there instead of tires. Working as a mechanic by day and taking online classes during nights and weekends, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Now in management, Einck is a service administrator for AgriVision Equipment Group.
“The reason for going to get my bachelor’s degree is that by then I had a job to pay for my schooling,” she says. “I didn’t want to accumulate thousands and thousands of dollars in debt to get a degree, like some many of my counterparts. And I already had a good job I enjoyed.”
Working as a skilled mechanic right out of school not only earned her valuable experience and a solid income, it earned her yet another title: homeowner. Shortly after her 22nd birthday, Einck was able to by a house. And never one to shy away from a learning opportunity, Einck decided to take flying lessons and receive her pilot’s license as well.
“I guess that’s a male-dominated field, too, but I’m just out to prove I’ll do what I like. I thought maybe it would be fun,” she adds.
To learn more about FFA, visit FFA.org.