Sarah Emig is breaking the mold as a young crane operator at Connelly Crane. Hannah Sundermeyer reports. 

As a fourth-generation operator, some of Sarah Emig’s early memories include grabbing the keys to a tiny Broderson crane and scattering the backyard with garbage cans, as she and her older brother arranged a makeshift obstacle course. It’s safe to say the construction industry has been embedded in her from a very young age.

Emig Crawler

Sarah Emig is fascinated with the mechanics of crawler cranes. They are her favorite crane to operate.

Emig is currently an operator for Connelly Crane, a family business, and she has learned every aspect of the industry from the ground up. To say Emig is a strong woman would be an understatement. Paving her own way, she has tackled a physically demanding industry typically dominated by men and achieved incredible successes along the way. Not only is professional hockey player on her growing resume, but Emig has participated in the SC&RA Leadership Forum along with advancing her own skills as an operator as she learns the ropes for a variety of machines, all the while maintaining a perfect safety record.

While she loves her job and encourages women to get involved in the industry, Emig still jokes that the worst part about being a woman in construction is the state of the bathrooms on jobsites.

Equal parts insightful and inspiring, she meets every obstacle with an unwavering sense of determination and confidence. Her leadership skills inspire others on and off jobsites. She motivates young women to achieve their dreams whether it’s on the ice as a hockey coach or in the cab of a crane.

Emig is taking the crane industry by storm and is defying gender roles in the construction world. I think you’re going to love reading her story.

When did you get involved with Connelly?

Although I grew up around the business, I didn’t start working full time till about three years ago. I went to Adrian College for Business and also played NCAA hockey. Following that, I pursued my hockey career as far as I could playing professionally in Germany and New Zealand. After realizing that there was no way to make a living playing hockey, I moved back to Michigan and started learning the crane industry from the bottom up.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

There are many challenging aspects of my job, but I would say the most challenging would be to not worry how others perceive me to be as a female operating heavy equipment and show them through my ability, knowledge and work ethic.

What excites you most about being an operator?

What excites me the most about being an operator is seeing a job start from basically a dirt pile to a finished building and seeing all the pieces of the puzzle come together for the finished product. I love seeing how all the trades play a role in the project.

What is your favorite piece of equipment to operate?

My favorite piece of equipment to operate would have to be a crawler crane. I am fascinated by how they are assembled before they are ready to go to work for the job. I have spent the most time oiling on crawler cranes and I am more familiar with them, which probably adds to them being my favorite to run.

LC Arena

Sarah Emig works on a jobsite on top of Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit, MI.

Where do you believe our industry will be in 5 to 10 years?

I believe that our industry is gaining more awareness every year. I know that our Operating Engineers Local 324 training center has been doing a lot of work at local high schools to share what our industry is and what it has to offer as a career. I also think that safety is going to continue to be a major aspect in the day-to-day for operators and crane rental companies, more documentation and record keeping of training, qualifications and service checks.

What is your ultimate career goal?

My ultimate career goal is to play a major role in being the best generation that Connelly Crane has had. Connelly Crane just celebrated 75 years of business. I look forward to being a part of the fourth generation in such a great family business.

What advice would you give to other women hoping to pursue a career in the industry?

Just go for it! It is such a fun and exciting industry to be a part of and pretty rare for women to be involved, which I think is awesome.

What is the best and worst part of being a woman in construction?

Emig family photo

In her spare time, Sarah Emig coaches hockey, spends time with her lab Nash and travels with her husband Jeremy Emig. 

The best part about being a woman in construction is when people ask you what you do for living and you say I’m a crane operator. Their usual response is, “Those huge machines you see on construction sites?” and I would say “Yup, those are cranes.” Then they say how cool and impressed they think it is that you’re able to do that and work out there with all those guys. The worst part about being a woman in construction is the bathroom situation on jobsites. Using Porta-Pottys with the rest of the guys on the jobsite is not the cleanest of bathrooms, but you do get used to it.

Can you tell me about your experience with SC&RA’s Leadership Forum?

My experience with SC&RA’s Leadership Forum could not have been better. I was able to establish relationships with other young professionals in the industry and discuss different topics that are changing within the industry. I really enjoyed that the group consisted of many different roles within companies, so we were able to gain perspective on topics from a different standpoint than what I am used to. I have been attending SC&RA events since I was a kid. They were our family vacations growing up, so I was used to my dad introducing me to his business relationships that he has developed over the years. After attending the Leadership Forum, I was able to introduce my dad to people I have met and started business relationships with.

What do you do when you are not working?

When I’m not working, I love spending time with family and friends doing anything outdoors from sports on the lake to hunting, hiking and playing hockey. I have a two-year-old lab that I am obsessed with and spoil her. I also coach a 12 and under girls AAA hockey team. I love to travel with my husband as much as time allows us.

Who inspires you the most?

My dad, Mike Connelly, inspires me. I have watched and admired his work ethic from a very young age. Seeing his true passion for the industry is something I really look up to. Also seeing how he is very detailed and knowledgeable with what he does. He takes his time and does research before making decisions. I hope to continue to learn the business from him.