When Audrey Wadley was a little girl, she never pictured herself operating an excavator or digging trenches for a living. But after more than 22 years working at Denver Water, she couldn’t imagine doing anything different.
Wadley came to Denver Water through a hiring program that aimed to expose more women to manual labor positions. After spending time in various departments at Denver Water, Wadley was intrigued by the heavy equipment used to lay and repair pipes. With her heart now set on operating heavy equipment, Wadley chose a position with water distribution, where she started working in ditches, installing and fixing the water pipes that lay under the city streets. Her hope: to rise through the ranks to operate heavy machinery one day.
After four years, Wadley’s dream came true when she got a position as a heavy equipment operator. “I never would have guessed that would have been my career, but I’ve been so blessed to do what I love,” said Wadley.
Wadley has spent the last two decades working with crews in the field, and her favorite part of the job is operating the excavator to dig deep trenches and move heavy materials on the job site.
“I just love the excavator. It’s big and runs nice and smooth. It’s my favorite machine,” she said.
While it can sometimes be difficult for women to step into traditionally male careers, Wadley said it was a relatively easy transition at Denver Water.
“There are always a few people who think women shouldn’t be in a certain type of position, but for the most part, my co-workers have always been helpful and willing to help me learn,” she said. “Working with mostly men has really taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned to always be who I am and not allow little things to bother me.”
It’s a confidence Wadley has seen demonstrated by strong female role models throughout her life.
“I come from a very large family. My grammy was very involved in my upbringing and I inherited my mom’s kind heart. I admire all of my aunts and female cousins who have strong values and are very successful,” she said.
Wadley is also inspired by her lifelong best friend, who went from being homeless to becoming a CEO. Through her experience, Wadley saw strength and perseverance. “I’ve always been surrounded by women who are dedicated, humble and supportive. And I try to bring those qualities to my work every day,” she said.
Today, Wadley leads a five-man crew as a water distribution supervisor. She’s responsible for preparing materials, conducting research and scoping projects before the field work begins. She believes her female role models, along with her previous work experience, have given her unique perspective that makes her a better leader.
“I’ve learned how to effectively communicate with both men and women. I have learned how to work in a neutral space, where I can remain professional, while getting along with my crews and staying out of the shenanigans,” said Wadley. “I love the people I work with and I enjoy being part of a team. We all try to help each other out, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Wadley doesn’t believe gender should keep anyone from pursuing a particular job.
“Have confidence and learn all you can,” she said. “Work hard not because you’re trying to prove a point or show that you’re better than anyone else, but because you love what you do and want to do your best. Do that and you will succeed.”