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Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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‘I used to skip school to help dad drive dumpers’ – The Digger Girl

That’s Farming speaks to Amy Underwood, a digger and HGV driver from Scotland, best-known as The Digger Girl, about her accidental career path and her Instagram and TikTok fame.

Amy Underwood is one of the best-known plant and machinery-related social media influencers.

The 26-year-old, most commonly known as The Digger Girl, boasts just under 100,000 TikTok followers and over 860,000 likes on the platform and over 40,000 Instagram followers.

She became a full-time employee of her father’s business, John Underwood Plant Hire Contractor LTD, at the age of seventeen, when she left school.

But this was an accidental venture as she intended to carve a career as a mechanic but failed to secure a position in a garage.

“I learned to drive at a very young and used to skip school to help dad drive dumpers,” she told That’s Farming.

“I have always been in and around machinery my whole life. My dad started his own business in the plant industry in his early 20s. Thirty-five years later, he is still going strong and teaching me everything he has learnt over the years.”

“I can never see myself doing anything else, but I never say never,” added Underwood, who resides in a small village outside Oban on the West Coast of Scotland.

The Digger Girl, plant machinery, diggers, Scotland

John Underwood Plant Hire Contractor LTD

She completed her plant operative’s apprenticeship in 2012/2013 at the National Construction College in Norfolk and scooped apprentice of the year awards during this period.

“I got my car licence at 17, all my tickets for machinery at 17, and then my HGV licences at 18,” she added.

She continues to work closely alongside her father, although they are not on the same site very often anymore. They are a small-scale business with two other employees and have five excavators ranging from 6-14-tonne, three being Kubotas, one Takeuchi and one Hyundai.”

“Also, we have three 9-tonne dumpers and two rigid plant lorries. Recently, we got a Scania V8 143 that needs a bit of attention, but that is an ongoing project.”

The Digger Girl, plant machinery, diggers, Scotland

Amy enjoys the variety that each day presents, and she can “be found doing anything” from house sites, new roads, ditching, small hydro schemes to general civil work.

“I love working alongside my father in a family-run business. At the start, we did have a few fallouts and disagreements, but now I would say we make the best team. He is my best friend. I look up to him so much. I am fortunate to be able to work with him.”

To be honest, it can be quite difficult sometimes being a female in this male-denominated industry. Some people may look at you as if you cannot do the job. I usually just keep my mouth shut and let my work do the talking.”

“On most sites, I am treated the same as my male counterparts. I get on great with everyone I work with regularly. It is always a new client who knows nothing about machines that doubts me and asks when my dad is coming.”

“Because I work with the same people and the community is quite small, everyone knows me now and what I do. Although if I go out of our wee zone, I always have people looking and asking questions.”

The Digger Girl, plant machinery, diggers, Scotland

Women in construction

She believes there are barriers preventing more females from pursuing a career in this field. “Although it is getting better, we are not quite there yet with normalising woman in male-dominated jobs.”

“I think it is the same as anything else you want to succeed in. You have to have a lot of drive, ambition, goals and dreams and be happy at your place of work.”

“I do not feel like women should be getting recognition in any way; we are just doing our job. However, it would be good for younger girls in school to be shown that this is normal, and anyone can do it. We need to get the younger generation educated properly about different career paths.”

“In construction, every single day is different, and every day is always a school day. You are constantly learning. You can always see how far you have come and look back and say I built that,” she added.

The Digger Girl, plant machinery, diggers, Scotland

Amy hopes to encourage more females to follow her lead to address the skills shortage the country could face in the future by showcasing her working life across social media.

“I just started my social media accounts for a bit of fun, but then I realised how many people I was inspiring – especially young girls. It came to my attention if they are seeing me do it, they will understand they can too. I get just the odd bit of negative feedback, but I just ignore it,” she added.

“Despite this, I want to keep doing what I am doing. I am very content at work and love working alongside my dad every day.”

“My journey so far has been very exciting. I have been very lucky with all the opportunities I have had. Although there have been some challenging times, I always come back stronger than I was before.”

Her advice for anyone toying with the idea of a career in the construction sector is this: “Go for it. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something you want to do”.

Read more Farm Girls stories.

To share your story like The Digger Girl, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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