Story and Photos by Melissa Trevizo, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations and government affairs department
HOUSTON, Texas – As a San Jacinto College student, Jean Hoelewyn mastered her courses, never stopping until she achieved high scores. Now she is excelling in her career as Silver Eagle Distributors’ first female diesel technician.
“I love what I do,” Hoelewyn said. “I wake up every day ready to go to work and face the challenges of the day. The team I work with is amazing and I’m happy to be here.”
As a military spouse, Hoelewyn moved around often with her husband and children. After a divorce, she was able to come home and live closer to her family. As a single mother, she enrolled in classes while working full-time.
“When I was finally able to go back to school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study,” Hoelwyn said. “I took some medical courses, but it wasn’t for me. My boyfriend asked me, ‘If money was no object and you could do anything you wanted, what would you want to do?’ My answer was that I like to tinker with things, see how they work, fix them or improve them. That conversation kick-started my search for the perfect career.”
After a little research, she decided to look into the automotive programs at San Jacinto College, something she already knew a little bit about.
“I grew up around engines,” Hoelewyn said. “My dad, grandpa, great uncle and great-great grandpa were auto mechanics. I had tinkered as a kid and learned a little bit, but diesel was something new.”
After enrolling in diesel technology courses, Hoelewyn quickly found her place amongst her peers and discovered her thirst for knowledge.
“I signed up for classes and was a team lead in the first three weeks,” Hoelewyn said. “During my time at San Jac my lowest grade was a 96.3. I never stopped asking questions and I talked to my instructors every day about the material.”
The hard work paid off and she graduated with honors in 2016 with her diesel technology certification.
“She really just pushed the limits of what she is capable of and impresses everyone she meets,” said Charles Siegel, diesel technology instructor at the San Jacinto College North Campus. “This profession is often considered a man’s game, but she comes in and does the work, shattering everyone’s pre-conceived notions.”
Even while attending San Jac, Hoelewyn was already working in the industry, but a call from Silver Eagle Distributors, the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, would change her life.
“Someone from Silver Eagle found my credentials online and asked if I was interested in interviewing for the position,” Hoelewyn said. “I was able to see the facilities and they gave me a great offer. Later I found out I was the first female diesel technician in the company’s history.”
Though it is an honor to make history, for Hoelewyn it’s not about being male or female, but being great at her job.
“You have to be ready to do everything the men are doing,” Hoelewyn said. “You can’t expect anyone to baby you. It is very hard work, for anyone. It can be physically and mentally demanding, so you have to stay on top of your game.”
As a T3 diesel technician, Hoelewyn services heavy-duty vehicles like 18-wheelers daily, performing inspections and looking for anything that could be a potential issue, making every day different.
“I don’t want the same thing every day,” Hoelewyn said. “You never know what’s going to happen or what you’ll come across in the bay. This is a great team and we consult about issues if we need help. It feels like a family and we are all working toward a common goal.”
Though she loves her job, she doesn’t see herself in this position forever.
“I would like to earn my ASE master certifications and one day be on the corporate side of things,” Hoelewyn said. “This job is hard on the body. Some people can go decades and some wear down quite a bit. I’m planning now for my future.”
San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, TX, since 1961.
As a fiscally sound institution, the college currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 institution, a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College.
Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The college offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce. For more information contact www.sanjac.edu.