Alex Kis embraces rare role as a female truck technician
Posted: February 22, 2019 by Sonia Straface
“I liked learning how things work, taking things apart. And something inside of me clicked,” Alex Kis says of her training to become a technician.
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Like many technicians, Alex Kis was influenced by her father – a police officer by day who doubled as a carpenter, engineer, and automotive mechanic. A true jack of all trades.
But while Kis shares this part of her life with others in the industry, she’s different from the majority of those in trucking. She’s young, in her 20s. And she’s a she, the only woman on the floor at Manitoulin Transport’s shop in Mississauga, Ont.
Her interest in trucks began when she was in high school and an auto shop teacher put the idea of fixing heavy-duty trucks in her mind.
“He was a heavy-duty truck mechanic before he became a teacher,” Kis said. “After I graduated, I took the year off to think about it.”
Eventually she found her way to Conestoga College’s pre-apprenticeship program for truck and coach technicians.
“Within a week, I was in love with the course,” Kis said. “I knew it was the right course for me because I like getting my hands dirty. I was so nervous being a woman that I wouldn’t get hired because I didn’t have any experience, so taking the pre-apprenticeship course made sense for me. I was the only girl in the class but my teacher always said he had one girl every year. They don’t push away against it. I liked learning how things work, taking things apart. And something inside of me clicked when I joined that program.”
Lucky for Kis, Manitoulin went to Conestoga in search of new truck technicians and hired her on shortly thereafter. She stayed at the company for three years before branching out to other shops, like Penske, to learn as much as possible before getting her licence. Then she found her way back to Manitoulin.
“There’s always a new challenge to overcome, and every day you have to think outside the box,” she said. “Even if you have the same issue, the repair can be different, so you’re constantly looking for what’s wrong.”
Kis is so passionate about her job that she sometimes finds herself back in high school, encouraging other youth to follow the career path.
“I am still in touch with my high school mentor,” she said. “So I go into his high school from time to time to speak to classes, to let them know there [are] opportunities out there in the trades. I love to do that. And especially telling girls that they shouldn’t be afraid of doing stuff just because they’re girls. I tell them about the industry, how I find my work very rewarding, and very fulfilling. And how by the end of the day, you have something to point and say, ‘I did that. That truck or trailer is on the road because of me.’”
Her favorite part of her job, though, is how the diverse work makes her feel.
“Just like my dad, I’m not just a truck mechanic,” she said. “I’m a welder. I’m a fabricator. I’m a carpenter. I’m an electrician. There’s so many skills to learn in this industry and there’s so much more I can learn.”
She has faced the occasional derogatory comment from drivers or mechanics. And she thinks women have to work harder, study harder, and do better than their male counterparts to be taken seriously.
“I definitely feel the pressure to be better, do it right the first time, and to get repairs done the fastest,” Kis said. “I always make sure I never slack off. I’m not only trying to prove it to everyone else, but I’m trying to prove it to myself, too. I remember when I was writing for my licence … I put so much pressure to pass the first time. It was such a big thing for me to do it the first time. And you know what? I failed. But I got it the second time, and I’m, still here.”
To date, she has yet to recruit anyone else into the trucking industry, though it remains one of her goals.
“I really hope I can do that one day,” she said. “I did help out a friend of my sister’s who wanted to be a mechanic, but he ended up being a car mechanic instead. I’m going to keep promoting the industry when I can, and telling schools all the good things I have to say until then.”