When I first left automotive and went into diesel, I went through another serious bout of shakiness. I was going from something I'd gotten used to, straight into an area that not only had no other women (I'd been in company of several women as an auto mechanic) but also an area where the standards were more exacting, the machines exponentially bigger, and I knew no one except my shop foreman and one really nice guy that I'd always chatted with before when I waited for my robotics classes nearby.
I was having a lot of trouble getting my groove back. One day, my partner, Danny, was out sick and I was left to confront this enormous Detroit engine sitting mostly in parts on the table where he and I had been tearing it down. I had to drive the pistons back in, reinstall the valves, get the valve head back on. What freaked me out was the head-bolt torque.
I had to pull 175 ft-lbs on each bolt. I weighed 105. I was going to go down in flames, I just knew it. My foreman handed me a torque wrench the length of my arm, said he wasn't sure how I was going to get this done, but that I had to, sink or swim.
So I braced one foot on the engine and leaned back, like I was pulling an oar. 25 ft-lbs, all bolts. 50 ft-lbs, all bolts. 75 ft-lbs, all bolts... I felt like I was dying. But I got those bolts torqued to 175. I knew I had to do it or that I would never be able to feel confident in myself again. Being a mechanic was a nightmare for my self-esteem. Never knowing what was next, being put on the spot, being cat-called.