Meghin Montesa was used to being the only woman in the technician training classes at Yamaha Marine’s headquarters in Kennesaw, Ga. Then one day, another woman, Lucy Berg, walked in. She wasn’t there as a student though.
“I was definitely really excited to see that,” Montesa says. “I had never seen a woman in classes, and seeing a woman as an instructor was really inspiring. I could see myself doing it.”
Berg inspired the 29-year-old Montesa so much that she continued to work through the required training to become the second woman certified as a Yamaha master technician. Montesa says she had to put some pressure on her bosses at the marina where she was working to send her to her first class, but after that, “I fell in love with going down there and learning everything.”
Technicians must complete six courses before qualifying to take the master technician test, including classes that cover engine basics, inline blocks, V-6 and V-8 blocks, drivetrain, advanced troubleshooting and diagnostics, and the Yamaha YDIS system. Montesa passed the written part of the test on her first attempt, but not the labs. The second time turned out better, and Montesa earned her certification.
Finding Her Niche
Montesa almost stumbled into her chosen career. She was working as a dental assistant and going to school for dental hygiene. While living with her parents in Virginia Beach, Va., she got a part-time job driving a forklift at Little Creek Marina about seven years ago to help pay the bills.
She took an interest in outboards and began poking around them in her spare time. “I started tinkering at the marina, and it just turned into me becoming a tech,” she says.
She heard rumors that the marina was going to close, so Montesa searched for an apprentice technician position at other yards in the area. Eventually, she landed a job as a service writer at Norfolk Marine in Norfolk, Va. “It was definitely hard to find a dealership to hire me in the first place,” she recalls. “Even when I did get hired, it was as a service writer even though they were looking for technicians.”
One of the biggest challenges Montesa faced was that she didn’t know where to begin. Had she known how to pursue a career in the marine industry, she might have skipped dental hygiene altogether. Her father was a flight technician in the U.S. Air Force and then became an engineer at Delta Air Lines, but it wasn’t as if he and his daughter tinkered on cars or boat engines in the driveway. “I always had an interest, but I didn’t know how to get my foot in the door,” she says.
During her time as a service writer, Montesa took advantage of any opportunity to learn. “I read through all of Yamaha’s information on the knowledge center and looked through parts diagrams,” she says.
Eventually, Montesa’s persistence paid off when she made the switch from service writer to technician. Then she convinced her bosses to send her to classes. The rest is history.
She did have some strong motivation in the form of her twin 13-year-old daughters, Stephanie and Isabella, and their 10-year-old sister, Cataleya. “That’s one of the things that inspired me to do this as a career,” Montesa says. “I noticed that they saw the confidence it built in me and taught them to pursue things that girls don’t always do.”
Her daughters have helped her work on engines, and she wants to make sure she exposes them to opportunities she didn’t have. “They’ve helped me with 100-hour services, and my youngest helped me strip down a powerhead,” Montesa says. Her father has a 21-foot Robalo that the family spends time on.
After earning her master certification, Montesa landed at Lynnhaven Marine in Virginia Beach. There, she has earned a reputation for being thorough and doing the job right the first time. “People notice when you spray their block down with silicone and you clean their boat when you’re done,” Montesa says. “I don’t think gender should play a role. I don’t think women are better or worse at this. I just don’t think women are exposed to it.”
Eventually, Montesa says, she would like to follow in the footsteps of one of the women who inspired her: Lucy Berg. Berg, who is 47, had worked on heavy equipment in the Air Force. She scored well in aptitude tests for the position, but faced a steep uphill climb through the ranks.
“I had to work 10 times harder to prove that I belonged in the same shop as the guys,” Berg says. “I was given oil changes and similar jobs, but eventually I came across a trainer who turned it around for me.”
He was a fellow active-duty technician who, during down time, gave her more complicated tasks to perform. “I finally learned to be able to do my job,” Berg says.
She moved on to a second Air Force base and, during her last three years of duty, became a trainer. She taught technicians how to work on engines for cargo loaders, and advanced hydraulic and electrical systems.
In 2005, Berg was honorably discharged and went to the University of Tennessee, where she earned a degree in English literature. After writing for several marketing agencies, she wound up in Warner Robins, Ga., working for a civilian contractor for the Air Force in the program management team for MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicles. She did this for more than three years and became a mom, raising her two boys, 10-year-old Nathan and 7-year-old Sean. “We go boating together, and they see mom drive the boat,” Berg says.
In 2018, Berg saw a job for an instructor’s position at Yamaha. “I had to learn real quick about this motor that was turned on its end and had a propeller coming out of its driveshaft,” Berg says. “But I know how motors work, and I’m a good teacher.”
She taught for two full seasons, instructing techs on inline 4-cylinder and 4-stroke outboards. Then she moved on to managing personnel and logistics for two years before the product specialist opportunity presented itself. “It’s the best of everything,” Berg says. “We do a lot of relaying engineering data and translating engineering-speak into regular layperson language for marketing and sales collateral.”
Moving forward, Berg hopes more women will consider marine technician as a viable career choice. She says Montesa was one of the first female techs to point out that being able to do the job has nothing to do with gender. “When we’ve interviewed the women about what it’s like to be a female technician,” Berg says, “they’ve all said pretty unanimously, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.’ ”
This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue.