When Lucy Berg was in her early 20s and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, she chose a job working on heavy equipment and vehicles. Despite the fact that she scored well in the aptitude test, the male peers in charge of the shop made it a little tough for her to fit in.
“In my 20s, when I first entered the career field, there were some stereotypes, and I had to work 10 times harder to prove that I belonged in the same shop as the guys,” Berg recalls. She overcame the challenges, moving up through the ranks before moving on from the Air Force. Today, Berg is a respected product specialist with Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. where she has taught courses and trained master technicians.
Looking back, Berg, now 47, said her break came in the form of another mechanic in the Air Force shop that took her under his wing. “He was active duty, working on vehicles like the rest of us, and he used the slow time to train me,” she says. “It built up my confidence, and then he started to give more complicated jobs.”
When she moved on to a new shop at a new base, Berg’s gender wasn’t an issue. “I just grabbed the job I wanted and did the work,” she says. From the shop, she moved into instructing other mechanics and that was a game-changer.
“The best confidence booster was becoming a teacher, and once they saw what I could do, people knew me and they said, ‘She’s one of the females we have who could do it,’” Berg says.
She spent the first three years teaching engines and hydraulic and electrical systems on cargo loaders for newly enlisted students — some of whom had never touched an engine. From there, she taught advanced electrical and hydraulic classes.
When her enlistment expired in 2005, Berg went back home to Tennessee, where she attended the University of Tennessee and earned a degree in English literature. After graduating in 2008, she wrote for marketing agencies until a position opened for her to work on a project management team for the Air Force in Warner Robins, Georgia, for a civilian contractor. She worked on Mine-Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for three years. She started a family and raised two boys, Nathan and Sean, who are now 10 and 7, respectively.
In 2018, Berg saw an ad for an instructor position at Yamaha Marine’s U.S. headquarters in Kennesaw, Georgia, and applied. “I had to learn real quick about this motor that was turned on its end and had a propeller coming out of its driveshaft,” she explains. “But I do know how motors work, and I’m a good teacher.”
She taught mechanics for two full seasons on in-line four cylinder and smaller four-stroke outboards and was promoted to instructional supervisor. “I feel like I helped a lot of people,” she says of her time as an instructor.
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The promotion put more managerial responsibilities on her plate, and she helped refine the training programs before she moved on to the Product Specialist position that Berg says is the best of all worlds for her skillset. She became a subject-matter expert on the product and can share that knowledge with original equipment manufacturers and consumers at events like boat shows and dealer meetings.
“We do a lot of relaying engineering data and translate engineering speak into regular lay-person language for marketing and sales collateral,” she says. “I get to teach again, which I love, and I get to help people understand what I know about products.”
Today, Berg is a single mom raising her sons and letting them see that gender isn’t an indicator of ability. “We go boating together and they see mom drive the boat,” she says.
Looking toward the future, she sees more women coming into the technician career field. “I have had the pleasure of witnessing an influx of a number of younger women coming into the career field,” she says.