Being an aircraft mechanic in a man’s world

Chery Bernadina - aircraft mechanic

What had always been my passion grew wings when I started my internship at Aeronamic. Now, four years later, I’m one of their leading all-round mechanics. I’m asked many times what it’s like to be in “a man’s world” and my answer is always, unequivocally the same: “a man’s world” is just a label. To me, our industry is simply “a world” in which I have a place. And yes, of course it would be great to have more women in it. We are just as capable of bringing the best in quality to the table. But it’s about your personality and how you combine that with your skill set.

My passion was sparked when I was about ten years old and living in Curaçao. While visiting the local car shop with my mom, I befriended their car mechanic, Michael Pistola. Because I was super interested, he happily showed me what he did. This reached the point where – when he was about to do something complex – he would call my mom and say: “I think Chery would like this; she’s welcome to come over, watch and help out.” That was how my love for mechanics was brought to the surface and I first started working on cars. As the desire to work on something bigger grew, I eventually came to the Netherlands to study Aircraft Maintenance (Deltion College, Zwolle).

Tight and clean

My first introduction to Aeronamic was during a guided tour organized by my school. It made me curious, so I did further research on the company and contacted them for another, more in-depth guided tour. The real wow-moment came when I was first introduced to the workplace. Making my way onto the work floor, I noticed how tight and clean everything was. How all the guys were so welcoming and supporting. There was nothing chaotic about it and I felt a sense of serenity. Everyone was very open in sharing what they did and how, and I felt that being a woman was not an issue in their field. Instead, there was mutual respect for the skills that we shared. Plus, they really took an interest in strengthening my abilities.

Embracing challenges

I knew how different workplaces could be through stories from my fellow students. What I love most is a tight working environment. Aeronamic puts time, research and effort into creating ideal work surroundings, on a people as well as a product level. It really is about talent! Regardless of your background, age, sex or gender. Under these conditions, I can push my limits and deliver the best possible results. I’m the type of person who embraces challenges, believing that there is always a solution for everything. But you need to have the right conditions to truly achieve that.

Team players

My hunger for challenges is also why I’m now part of the team working on the F-35 program. The attention to detail is insane … a tiny particle of dust can spell disaster. But my greatest skill is in being precise – perhaps a feminine quality? That said, being good at what I do on my own isn’t what keeps me here. My colleagues and I are all team players. That is how every one of us can become more skillful. By being flexible, I have managed to work on all the systems with all our different teams, and the great thing is that I get to share what I learned with other colleagues. That means a leap in experience for one of us will ultimately benefit all of us … and thus benefits Aeronamic. I’m grateful to be a part of that.

Encouraging development

Long ago, someone invested time in me because he saw my enthusiasm. I am aware that I can be that someone for other people, especially young girls and female students. I can do that by showing what’s possible when you put your heart into something. At Aeronamic, we are actually doing the same by encouraging development and getting people to push limits. But whether you’re a man or a woman, this only works if that attitude is already part of you. You need to make sure you choose an environment which feels right. I’m not done living up to my ambitions just yet, but right now I’m exactly where I need to be. And I still have many challenges ahead that I can’t wait to get my hands on!