Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 4:32pm

City of Madison Engineering will be sharing one profile a day as it celebrates National Women in Construction Week, March 1-7, 2020.

“Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl,” Operator Victoria Ramirez said. “My first vehicle that I drove was a pickup truck, a long-box pickup truck. That’s how I learned how to drive. The first car I ever touched was a manual … but I love driving. I love driving the tandems. I love driving the vactors. For me, it’s fun!”

Ramirez has always been comfortable behind the wheel, which has prepared her perfectly for what she does day-to-day for the City of Madison Engineering Division. Ramirez is an operator for the division, which means she drives dump trucks, operates heavy equipment and is currently being trained to operate the division’s big green vactors, which are used for preventative maintenance on the City’s sewer system. Ramirez said she loves that each day is different. 

“I jump around and do a ton of things … Tomorrow I could be doing construction. I could be driving a triaxle dump truck—hauling material from the hole they’re digging, going to get clear stone. It could me being down in the ditch by hand with a shovel to try to find a gas line,” Ramirez said.

While the path ahead and her approach to working is clear for Ramirez, getting to this point wasn’t as easy. Ramirez was born in Madison, Wis. and was raised on the east side. While she was in high school, her parents divorced. At the time, she said she followed the wrong path, but found Operation Fresh Start, a program that is geared to help young people ages 16-24 toward a path to adulthood. OFS helps those who may need support earning a high school diploma through mentoring, education, and employment training, leading to completing high school and continuing their education and/or self-sustaining employment.   

“I did 900 hours of conservation and 600 hours of construction,” Ramirez said. “ … It [construction] helped us learn skills about how to build a [house] foundation, concrete work, walls, trim for windows and doors. For conservation, we learned about invasive species, we created paths out at the [Owen] conservancy and how to maintain some of the spaces.”

In Operation Fresh Start, the crews do a wide range of work in Dane County, from conservancy projects in City and County parks to building affordable housing for families in need.

Another requirement of the program upon completion: a job lined up with a clear path to success. 

“I wanted to work for the City, and no one had ever done that before. No one had gone from Operation Fresh Start to the City and taken that path. So, I was the first one to do that with them,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez earned her high school diploma through Operation Fresh Start, and her first day working for the City of Madison was April 2017. She was a seasonal employee for a couple of months, and then she was hired full-time in September 2017. Ever since then, she’s enjoyed every moment of learning.

Ramirez notices there aren’t a lot of women operators in the construction industry, but that doesn’t faze her one bit. Ramirez said she’s always been surrounded by guy friends growing up and Operation Fresh Start was also male-dominated, neither has impacted her outlook on getting the work done. 

“Because I’m young, they definitely see me as a little sister and support me [here in Engineering],” Ramirez said.  

In the public, sometimes Ramirez said it comes as a surprise to some passerbys that she’s behind the wheel.

“There have been times where I’ll take the loader out somewhere, and I’ll stop at Kwiktrip to get something to eat, and then they [someone in the public] see little ol’ me coming out [of the truck] and they say ‘Hey, it’s nice to see a female working at such a young age!’ And I say, ‘thank you!’ They ask, ‘You driving that big ol’ thing?” and I’m like, ‘yeah!’” Ramirez said. “Every time they [the public] see me coming out, they think this little girl is driving this? And I say, ‘yes!’”  

No matter how your path begins, Ramirez said she wants other women to know it’s always possible to change courses, take control and, if you need, dig your own path to what you want to achieve, especially in the construction industry.

“Do what makes you happy,” Ramirez said. “Give something a try. If you’re too scared, because say you’re in a male-dominated environment, so what? … Just go for it. If that’s something you think you can do and want to do … At least you know you can say you tried. There’s going to be people who support you and people on the way who don’t and keep those people who do support you close.”

City of Madison Engineering will be sharing one profile a day as it celebrates National Women in Construction Week, March 1-7, 2020.

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Agency: 
Engineering
Category: 
Vision & Awards