Qualified.

I am now a qualified Heavy Vehicle Technician, seven months earlier than my anticipated completion date, and work feels the exact same!

Am I disillusioned?

No. I knew it would feel like this.

For the last three and a half years my identity has been ‘apprentice diesel mechanic’. I never called myself just a ‘diesel mechanic’, the title of ‘apprentice’ was affixed to my identity like superglue on skin and I didn’t have the confidence to peel it off.

I knew that somewhere along my journey I would have to stop calling myself an ‘apprentice’. Not because one day I would qualify, but because if I didn’t stop calling myself an ‘apprentice’ I would never believe I was ready to identify as a ‘diesel mechanic’.

The confidence to leave the title ‘apprentice’ behind came at the start of my fourth year.

I started recognising my own certainty in diagnosing truck symptoms and fault codes, began to appreciate when I focused, I achieved more than I expected each day and I felt equipped for every job given to me. This awareness led me to feel I was ready to call myself a ‘diesel mechanic’, but it didn’t fool me to into thinking I was all-knowing or any more experienced than I had been the day before.

When the day finally came that I left my title as ‘apprentice’ behind I felt the exact same, came with the same amount of experience I had when I finished work the previous Friday and knew that the only real change that had occurred was in my title.

Finishing my apprenticeship early by seven months was an extremely rewarding feeling. It proved to me, once again, that a strong work ethic and positive attitude towards work and learning pays off, even if motivation fluctuates.

More than anything, I hope that my early completion can be an inspiration to the apprentices that follow me and an example that qualifying doesn’t mean the end of learning.

Ashley

Please note: the included photo was taken before COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Spoilt.

Inside, a part of me always recoils when the word ‘spoilt’ is used against me. Yes, against me. Against me as if the word is an attack – although the user wielding the word often doesn’t realise it’s a weapon.

I doubt anyone is foreign to the phrase ‘you are spoilt’, I know I am guilty of wishing people ‘get spoilt’ for their birthdays like it’s a beautiful state of being. It’s a phrase I grew up hearing around birthdays, Christmas, and any other gift-giving situation. Even then, there was something about the phrase that irked me: why would we use such a negatively connotated word in a situation where our actions are positive by design?

Gift giving is an act of generosity, love, and celebration. In my life, I have learned to be appreciative and accepting of all gifts – even the ones you dislike at first because they didn’t fit inside your idea of a ‘gift’. In the end, those unexpected gems tend to be the most rewarding.

In stark comparison, the word ‘spoilt’ suggests that the recipient receives ‘too much’ or is undeserving of whatever is gifted to them. So why are we using this word and dismissing the beauty of gift-giving for all involved?

When I think of the word ‘spoilt’ I think of food that has gone off, so when the word is used against me, I find myself thinking ‘I’m not an off person because of this gift’. In response, I often verbalise: I have worked hard as a defence against the word as if I need to prove I am deserving. No one should have to prove they are worthy of a gift; we are innately worthy of love and generosity. It’s not about the size or price of the gift and entirely about the act of thinking of another and appreciating them with a surprise.

I often gift my family and friends with sweet messages and notes about how much they mean to me, or how inspiring they are. Those gifts cost a two-dollar card or a few minutes and are the most rewarding gifts I have ever given.

I’m practicing more awareness around my daily language and how words make me feel – especially the word ‘spoilt’ – as our body’s responses are the most honest conversations we can have with ourselves.

Comment below and let me know what word you’ve taken out of your vocabulary and why!

Ashley

The Subtle Step Outside.

It wasn’t until I sat in the room with a couple-hundred other people, preparing myself to stand on stage in front of them, that I understood. I hadn’t known where the courage to say ‘yes’ to speaking came from, but it turns out it’s a very ordinary source…

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the Wyndham City Council’s Women in Business luncheon event earlier this year alongside two other women (one who was also in the transport industry, and one who was in the medical industry).

Naturally, I said yes.

I’d spoken in front of people before and often looked forward to opportunities to get excursions from the workshop and experience new environments. (Of course, I was also enticed by the promise of lunch that came with being invited to a luncheon event.)It wasn’t until I arrived at the event on the day, with bullet point responses memorized in my head for my five minutes on stage, that I began to feel nervous. There were more people in attendance that I had anticipated and I typically experience some nerves and excitement before anything that isn’t entirely in my comfort-zone – and this definitely wasn’t. Yet… I’d still said ‘yes’ quite easily.

It wasn’t until that lunch that I asked myself: how did I have the courage to say ‘yes’ to speaking in front of a large audience?

The question gnawed away at me through most of the lunch but, eventually, the answer dawned.

While speaking in front of the couple-hundred people at the event was outside of my comfort-zone, it was still a task I believed I was capable of completing well. Reflecting back over my opportunities since beginning my apprenticeship I realised that slowly, steadily, I had been sneaking outside of my comfort-zone a step at a time.

Each time I stepped out of that comfort-zone, what I knew I was capable of and what was in the achievable-but-intimidating grey-zone (after the comfort-zone) grew. That led me from presenting in front of small groups of new apprentices to speaking in front of well-educated business people with more life experience than me.

I surpassed even my own expectations at the event. I spoke of my experience in the automotive industry (and showcased that not all tradies are low academic achievers by mentioning my 95.55 ATAR) and emphasized the desirability of women in trade. The response was exhilarating, the room clapped for me numerous times and afterwards many people approached me to commend me on my personal story and my speaking skills.

So, next time you’re wondering how to find the courage to take a big leap of faith and try something new: remember all the little steps you’ve taken that make you capable of that new opportunity.

The subtle growth is there.

Ashley

Perfectionism

With the current world situation, many life plans have been disturbed, lifestyles have been dramatically altered and even as an essential worker (where the only real workplace change I’ve experienced is work hour adjustments) I feel the increased stress and turbulence myself through the impact it has on my family and friends. More than ever, a discussion of perfectionism is relevant to our current situation and mental health.

When I think of the word perfect and when I think of perfectionism I also think of faultlessness, because that’s what the word ‘perfect’ means, right? No.

Source: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/perfect

‘Perfect’, by definition, has no specification to faultlessness. The notion of faultlessness comes from human ideals where we perceive that it is possible to achieve a state of faultlessness. Whether it’s the faultlessness of this blog post, the faultlessness of a truck re-build, or the faultlessness of your morning drive to work, these ideals cannot possibly exist. The main reason for that is because everyone’s opinion of faultlessness differs. There is no single universal form that dictates the morally right or wrong way to drive to work, eat your breakfast or make your bed, but that doesn’t mean that what you are doing is faulty.

When we have inclinations towards perfectionism it leads us to aim for a form of faultlessness that can never be achieved, because if you asked too many people their opinions on your work or on your lifestyle I can guarantee one of them would identify numerous ‘faults’ in your methodology.

In the workshop as an apprentice I get the opportunity to work with a variety of people and they all have different methods on how to get the job done right, so they all have different ideals for what the ‘perfect repair’ looks like. That’s why, as a perfectionist, or even as a person who aims for perfection in certain aspects of their life, we have to learn to not focus on perfection itself for we risk focusing on faultlessness. We only set ourselves up for disappointment because we aim for something that is unattainable and forget to appreciate how well we have really performed in comparison to where we started. That’s why we need to focus on improvement over perfection instead.

Perfection in itself is an ideal and a barrier. If we believe something is perfect that is to say that there is no way that it could ever be improved, but I believe improvement is infinite hence, perfection is unattainable. It is much better for the mind-frame to instead focus on improvement – not only does that drive us to constantly work towards improving our work, our lifestyle or even our own attitudes towards ourselves, others, or our surroundings, but it allows us to focus on the progress we make instead of the perfection we haven’t achieved. It forces a much more optimistic mindset and promotes motivation and inspiration (and even if we don’t rely on these factors they’re always a welcome boost!)

So, if you’re ever overcome with the lack of perfection of an aspect of your life, a project you’ve created or a task you’re completing, remember to focus on the improvements you’ve already implemented and the ways you can continue to improve instead of the ultimate ideal of perfection. People are inclined to notice progress more than they notice ‘perfection’. If you want to look at perfection from a work-force perspective, it is more beneficial to improve and grow as an employee than it is to remain stagnant and as close-to-perfect as reality allows anyways, so you might as well kiss perfection goodbye!

Ashley

Teachers

Below is a blog post I wrote in the winter of 2018 after attending the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, yet it is still very applicable. In the current state of the world and with our abnormal work and lifestyle circumstances there is still something to be learned and our teachers are still everywhere.

This year was my first experience at the Melbourne Writer’s festival and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from current writers in the industry, whether they were in the fiction or non-fiction field as a profession or a passion. While I received invaluable insights into the industry, tips and tricks I can use in my own writing and new perspectives on topics of writing and life alike, the biggest lesson I took away from the experience was teachers don’t only work in classrooms.

I attended a select few conversations that formed a subsection of the festival with the intent of gaining exposure. Engaging with these events with this mind-frame allowed me to pull phrases, tips and ideas just from the conversations of the diverse range of published authors, editors and conversation-directors without any of them explicitly trying to teach.

When I became aware of how much information I was receiving from these events and the valuable insights I was gaining, I realised that while it was a ‘festival’ the title didn’t truly capture the experience.

In the workshop – a vastly different environment from a classroom where noise comes from air guns and running engines instead of children – there isn’t one designated ‘teacher’ and every job is a test of your knowledge and experience. The apprentices learn from the technicians and the service manual, and once the apprentices become technicians there is an unlimited expanse of knowledge and understanding still to be absorbed. I feel it is safe to say no one in the workshop has ever completed a teaching degree, yet a significant portion of their job is teaching and training.

In my experience I have received more from the lessons I’ve received outside of a classroom than the ones I received in them. It’s not just the content that I’m learning, but values of diversity and growth, self-improvement and social interaction, problem solving and work ethic. The extent to which I could have learn those skills in a classroom were limited in comparison to the exposure I receive in a work place or the exposure I receive when exploring new events or situations. My parents, sibling, work-mates, supervisors, friends, strangers at festivals and my own mistakes – they are teachers too. Books, films or T.V. shows (and I’m not just talking about documentaries or non-fiction text) can teach us and introduce new ideas or ways of thinking, and children, with their unfiltered view of the world, are also great teachers of perspective.

Now that I’ve had my vision broadened, I feel more receptive to the lessons constantly being thrown at me. Every day there is another mistake to be made or lesson to learn, and I’m surrounded by teachers.

Ashley

A ‘Female’ Apprentice

Being a tradesperson in the heavy vehicle transport industry as a female is a factor that I will not prioritise while sharing my experiences of work and the world, for reasons you will soon understand, but I cannot deny its influence on my experiences – and it might not be in the ways you’re expecting.

There is a duality in the title ‘female apprentice’ that is both unavoidable and contradictory. Being a ‘female apprentice’ and advertising the opportunity for women to enter non-traditional roles advocates for increased participation in industry and increased gender diversity. Yet, by advertising for ‘female’ apprentices, it still places an emphasis on gender that doesn’t exist for ‘male’ apprentices.

I know that this duality frustrates many tradespeople who carry the title ‘female apprentice’ or ‘female technician’.

Yet, I believe it is a necessary – not permanent – emphasis that can create a perspective shift.

When I made the decision to become an apprentice in heavy vehicle mechanical technology, considerations about my gender were unavoidable. It was important to me that I had equal opportunities, was accepted into the culture of the workplace and supported as an individual (not just as a female). In my experience, the recruitment level is where the emphasis on ‘female’ tradespeople is most valuable as it educates the community that women are desired in these non-traditional roles.

Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to any trade industries. It was by chance that I was introduced to the transport industry in high school, leading me to where I am today. If this changed, and students of all genders were exposed to the potential careers in trade earlier in life then I believe the number of females entering non-traditional roles would increase.

Awareness is the beginning. Yet, recruitment is where the emphasis of ‘female’ can end.

I am grateful for the attitude and culture of my workshop. Once I became a part of the team, I wasn’t a ‘female apprentice’ I was just an ‘apprentice’. My merit was earned based on who I was as an individual – my identity, work ethic and attitude created my reputation and brand – not my gender.

I believe my experience is the ideal outcome of gender inclusion. Although, I can admit that there are times I carry the ‘female apprentice’ label as a way to advocate for women in the trade – that is a sacrifice that I am prepared to make for the benefit of advancing gender inclusion.

Being a female is a part of my identity, and therefore it will always be a factor in my experiences, but it isn’t the reason I have certain experiences, and that is important. My experiences are a product of who I am as an apprentice and as an employee.

It is in these ways that my gender is an influence on my experiences in the transport industry and yet not profoundly impactful. With these experiences and my insight, I can advocate the inclusiveness of the industry for all, even if the use of gender labels, in reality, can be a little contradicting.

Ashley Beeby

Second Introductions

This is not my first blog.

Yet, I intend for this one to not get eaten by the internet and its dark vastness and my inexperience!

My name is Ashley, and I welcome you to my new blog!

Over time, I know we will become very acquainted with one another but let me start with a brief introduction.

I am currently a full-time diesel mechanic, having commenced my apprenticeship after completing my high school career with academic results in the top 5% of the state.

If you’re thinking: “what?!” then you are among the people who asked ‘why aren’t you studying to become an engineer?’. If my decision to become an apprentice confuses you, then I implore you to keep following, because to-date this decision remains the most significant life decision I have made.

Beyond my career, I have ambitions to become a published author.

I am a writer, published or not. Writing is in my blood, yet even passion requires work and commitment.

Through this blog I aim to impart some of my experiences to you, and along the way share some magic through the joy of story telling. But, ultimately, I seek to refine my skill, connect with people, and grow as an individual and writer.

If you are on this journey with me, thank you! I look forward to getting to know you.

Ashley Beeby