Afton Hollertz

Holdrege, NE, US
Field of Work 
Allmand Bros., Inc.
Job Title or "Student" 
Continuous Improvement Engineer
Southeast Community College - Milford
Associate's of Applied Science - Manufacturing Engineering & CAD Technology
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
Hi! Welcome to my profile! Since you're visiting, I'll assume you already have an interest in STEM. So, let me tell you my story...

I grew up in a family of four girls, no boys. Being from a farm, my dad took no objection to our gender. We were out working.. irrigating.. hauling pipe.. helping with equipment.. feeding the cows or newborn calves. Dad was also a car guy. I remember laying under cars when I was little, handing him tools or gadgets to complete whatever project he was working on at the time. I enjoyed that time, and subconsciously learned from it. Mom stayed home with us until we were all in school, then she went back to work. She did books for the local grocery store, among many other things. I remember her watching Jeopardy and answering before any other contestants could ring in. She was so smart and I wanted to be, too.

The first thing I remember wanting to be when I grew up was an architect. I was always in awe of old historical buildings and the detailed artwork that went into their designs. As I went through school, I knew I was on my way toward that dream. I was always interested in math. In fact, I couldn't get enough of it. When I finally got into high school where we could pick and choose our classes, I loaded up on every math class I could get into. As I neared graduation and began researching colleges, I was informed that I needed a portfolio to get into any architectural program. So, I enrolled in art classes, a shop class and a computer aided drafting class. I was the only girl in that shop class. It bothered me a little, as I was fairly shy around the boys. The computer aided drafting class ended up being more detailed than I imagined. Most of the drawings we worked on reminded me of something that might go into a car or tractor, or pieces of machinery. As I got more into the class, the more detailed the work was. I found that I was applying a lot of my math skills to the drawings that I was creating. I was intrigued by the tiniest details required. I suppose it triggered those childhood days of laying under dad's cars and watching him work. It was then I realized that maybe I didn't want to do architecture. Just before graduating, I changed my path to mechanical engineering and headed off to college.

I went to a small technical college just a few hours away from my hometown. I decided to start there and then transfer to a university so I could keep my education expenses down.. I was paying for college myself, after all. So I started my tech classes in manufacturing engineering. Through these courses, I learned even more about myself and what really intrigued me. I also discovered that hanging out with a bunch of boys wasn't so bad! I was the only girl in my class and one of 17 girls on the entire campus. It was strange at first, but I easily transitioned.. Something that I'm grateful for learning early, since my future was going to entail working with more guys than gals. I had no idea there were so many avenues of engineering and what I could do with this education I received. Before taking some of these classes, I really had no idea what manufacturing was about. I quickly learned and have been hooked ever since. Rather than pursuing a mechanical engineering degree after graduating from tech school, I went out and started a career in manufacturing.

My first job was with a company that designs high end retail store fixtures. For a simple explanation on that, we designed and manufactured displays for clothing stores, large department stores, jewelry stores, even hotel furniture. As a design engineer there, I found that it brought together some of my favorite things... architecture, detailed design work, and clothes! Many times I would get to travel out to stores and do surveys or reviews of current fixtures. I always could squeeze in a little shopping at the end. After a few years of design and learning the industry, and received a promotion. I was asked to start traveling around the world and work on special projects. I started traveling just after I turned 22 years old. I had opportunities to experience other countries and cultures, meet new people (many are good friends still today) and learn even more about myself. Never until traveling did I realize that I was so good at building relationships with people. I don't suppose I would have discovered many of my strengths had I not had those opportunities.

Nearly four years ago, my son was born. I was still with the same job that required me to travel, so decided it was time to stop and stay close to home for him. I left that job behind, packed up and moved back to my hometown to raise my son. I made a phone call to a very good company here. I told them my education and my experiences and they quickly brought me on board. I am now a manufacturing engineer for a small, family owned company. Since being here, many things have changed. My outside experiences and opportunities have allowed me to offer different view points on many situations, ranging from production floor processes to business strategies. One of my favorite parts about my job now is coming up with some crazy new idea (or at least a new spin on an old one) and putting those ideas into action. It's fun to bring the teams together and get them excited about what they're doing. I also enjoy learning new things.. I'm always reading or researching something.. The more I learn, the more I can teach others..

So, as you can see, I didn't start out with the dream of working in manufacturing. Through a serious of events and major life decisions, I just ended up here! I can honestly say there isn't another industry that I would rather be a part of. We are a key part of building our future, and we can all do it together.

I hope there are parts of my story that you might relate to. Please reach out to me if you think I might be able to help in any way!

Working outdoors, Pets, Dance, Reading, Video games, Travel, Sports
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, Field trip participation, In-school visit, Job shadow, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
No Preference
Career exploration activities, Funding opportunities, Identifying other role models
Program Affiliation 
Manufacturing Institute STEP Award Honoree, NGCP Collaborative FabFem

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