Facilities technicians are the unsung heroes of any KinderCare center. They are the ones who wake up early to shovel the sidewalks after a winter storm, who stay late to mop up floors after a water pipe bursts, and the person who comes (no questions asked) whenever a toy is dropped down the toilet. Each of the 110 or so technicians is responsible for maintenance at about 15 KinderCare centers in their area. The technicians are a hard-working bunch of men, except for one technician in the San Diego area.
Carla Kurtz began her career with KinderCare nearly 15 years ago, after a career as a mechanic at Sony. Her original plan was to retire from Sony, but with her children grown and her husband laid off, she decided she needed to head back to work. When she saw the job posting for KinderCare she thought it would be interesting work. Overseeing the maintenance of several childcare centers was a big change from her work at Sony though.
“Being a facilities tech is a lot of work,” Carla said. “You have a lot of customers: center directors, district managers, families, and children. I have 20 centers and it’s like having 20 separate houses full of kids. And kids break everything. You have to make it safe. It’s up to you to fix it.”
As Carla learned to meet the needs of her myriad of customers, she discovered one major difference between her old job and her new one. Although she still worked in the male-dominated field of facilities, she spent most of her days in centers managed (and in many cased entirely staffed) by women. Over the years Carla and her center directors formed a sisterhood. That’s not to say there weren’t some raised eyebrows when she started.
“People say, ‘I’ve never seen a female mechanic before,’” Carla said, recounting a common greeting. Children couldn’t figure out who she was at first and were puzzled by her tools. After almost 15 years though, she doesn’t hear so many comments about how dads are the ones with tools – much to her delight. Her own three sons are proud of her for her career, and although they may still call her for fix-it advice, they don’t see job roles as being “for men” or “for women,” a lesson Carla hopes she exemplifies for the students in her centers.
Children ask lots of questions, but Carla enjoys sharing stories with her young customers and hearing about their day. She said no matter what center she’s at the children are all the same: curious. It wasn’t until one father shared a story with her that realized just what an impression she’d left on a child.
“He told me, ‘My three-year-old pretends to be you at home,” she said. “He goes around fixing things.”
Recalling that story still brings a smile to her face and reminds her exactly why she enjoys the never-ending work of repairing and maintaining her centers. Carla knows her work, from fixing bikes to painting classroom walls to fishing odd items out of toilets, makes her centers safer and makes the lives of the children, parents, and staff just a little bit better.