Annie Tooley

Savannah Winkles

Mainline trackhoe operator

At 5’4” and 22 years old, Savannah wasn’t your typical heavy equipment operator. But she loved operating equipment—the bigger the better—and she had a knack for it. 

She got interested in the trades when she heard father and her step-father talk about their jobs as an electrician and civil engineer. And when she overheard people saying “women can’t do things like that,” she knew she had to try it.

“We are capable of doing anything, whether we are big, small, or even really young,” she said.

Savannah started out on a 6’x6’ roller. When she saw her first big excavator, she said, “It was the biggest thing I’d ever seen in my life, and I wanted to run it.”

She interviewed with Southern Site right after a dental appointment “I was talking funny, but I got the job,” she joked.

Savannah loved Southern Site because they let her take ownership of her work and helped her when she needed it. “It made me feel so empowered, so supported,” she said. She also appreciated that her crewmates were willing to teach her and that her superintendent said she had “finesse.”

Operating equipment meant more than putting in her time at work. “My job was my safe haven. It was the place where I felt like I could be the true me without any judgment," Savannah said.  

She added, “When I came out here and my foreman asked me to dig a ditch, that was my canvas. I tried to make this big masterpiece for everyone in the world to see, and I wanted to get as close to perfection as I possibly could. I took so much pride in my work."

For Savannah, there was more on the line than just operating equipment because someone told her she couldn’t. She had her younger siblings’ eyes on her, as well as other young people who were starting out in the trades.

Her advice to young people was, “You can do anything in this world, and nobody can EVER say that you can’t do it.”

And for the girls, she added, “This is just as much our world as it is theirs. Being an independent woman is everything in this generation. I just want to see women succeed.” 

Learn more about what it takes to become an equipment operator in the Dirt World.

Field Team
Equipment Operator

What’s next

Create a Dirt World profile

Create a BuildWitt Jobs profile

people on each thumbnail

Learn why others have joined the industry

Check out companies in the Dirt World

Check out companies in the Dirt World

Why Build a Career in the Dirt World-button

Read the article: Why Build a Career in the Dirt World?