Sarah Cotton

Sometimes the first career you try isn’t the one you’re meant to end up in. At 29 years old, Sarah Cotton tried the manufacturing and hospitality industries before finding her passion in crane operation.

Despite no prior experience Sarah became a certified crane operator in early 2014 after half a year of training.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, and Sarah says at first people were a bit funny when she said she wanted to be a crane operator.

“People weren’t overly supportive to be honest, my friends didn’t think I could do it, they didn’t understand why I wanted to do it.

“I kept at it not only because it was something I really wanted to do, but also because I wanted to prove them all wrong.

“I think people still have really set ideas about what are ‘mens’ jobs and what are ‘womens’ jobs. It’s hard physical work but women can do anything men can do. If you want to do something, just do it – don’t let anyone tell you differently,” she says.

Porter Cranes Manager Stu Rowling says Sarah’s attitude has been the driving force behind her success in the industry.

“She has a great outlook on life, and isn’t afraid of hard work. We’ve seen this positively impact several of our major clients who hold her abilities in high regard.

“Anyone who has the get up and go to change careers is going to be determined to succeed. We are proud to have her at Porter Cranes, she is a real asset to the team, and the company,” he says.

In her line of work Sarah has the opportunity to work in some of New Zealand’s most challenging industrial and commercial construction sites.

“I get to work in some really interesting places like the Karapiro Hydro Dam. We had to life heavy plant up onto the dam and on one side there was just a straight drop down for metres. It was really scary, challenging, but completing rewarding. I mean, how many people get to say they get to do that at their work?

“I love having something different to tackle everyday. I’ve also learnt things I can use outside of work like communication skills. In this job you have to be able to communicate with your team, it helps the job go smoother and safer. That’s helped me outside of work – oh and I also used the rope tying techniques I learnt to hang my hammock at home,” she jokes.

So what does the future hold for a qualified trainee in the crane industry? The answer is daily challenges, varied work locations, continued career development in an industry continuously growing across the world.


The final piece of advice Sarah gives to potential trainees is, “If you’re willing to take on a role that is both physically and mentally challenging and you thrive on learning new skills, definitely give the cranes trade a go.”