Heather Behrent has loved learning how things work since she was a child. “When I was growing up, my dad was always working on our cars, the house, the lawnmower, and anything else that needed repair,” says Behrent, who also felt an affinity for math and science. She considered an engineering career, but the thought of spending her days behind a desk wasn’t appealing. “I love the outdoors, and I love working with my hands,” she says. “In order to satisfy these other passions, I began the search for another career path.”
Behrent changed her course of study multiple times to find what worked best for her. Eventually, she decided on aviation maintenance, which would allow her to apply her love for solving technical problems in a work setting. She received her degree in aircraft electronics and her airframe and powerplant certificate from Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and soon landed her first aviation job at Air Wisconsin Airlines, where she worked on the CRJ-200.
In 2017, Behrent became an avionics technician with United, and she was able to fast-track her skill set. She went from working on one aircraft at Air Wisconsin Airlines to working on five different aircraft at United. “I worked hard to become proficient at my job and found many helpful mentors along the way,” she says. “I would not be the technician I am today without all the hardworking, talented, and kind mentors that I have found here at United.”
After three years, Behrent set her sights on becoming part of the tech support team at O’Hare International Airport. She didn’t get the job the first time she applied, in 2020, but she didn’t let that rejection discourage her. “I was still very early in my career,” she says. “I continued as an avionics technician and worked hard to get involved in as many projects as I could. I began to teach other technicians my skills while also enhancing my own.”
Her hard work paid off: In October 2022, Behrent accepted a new position as a tech support member. Currently, her job involves finding positive fixes for complex and ongoing maintenance issues and troubleshooting the most complicated issues for United’s aircraft; no two days are the same. She’s not limited to spending her days behind a desk in the United shop, either. There are times the field calls her name—from doing a Boeing 767 engine field service change in Goose Bay, Canada, to picking up a new Boeing 787 for United’s fleet, to even visiting the White House as a representative of United’s new apprenticeship program.
Behrent loves what she does and, even more important, loves the people she has met and the connections she has made at United. “Aviation is an awesome community,” she says. “I think this tight-knit and like-minded group of people is created because of how many teams come together with the common goal of getting a commercial aircraft to fly. The people in our group are from all over the world, due to the nature of our work.”
For Behrent, being a woman in the technical operations field shows that gender does not have to determine your place in the world. She serves as an example to young women worldwide, showing them that career paths do not have to be dictated by stereotypical gender roles. One thing that helped her succeed? “It is very important to find a mentor,” she says. “These people are your greatest allies and will help you be successful. No one knows everything, and having someone you feel comfortable with to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with will make you a better technician.”
Behrent offers another piece of advice to the growing number of women joining United’s technical operations team: Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
“Show your team you are capable and eager to learn,” she says, “even if this means you make a few mistakes along the way.”
About United’s Women’s Business Resource Group: United aims to represent the diverse, global customer base we serve. Our women’s business resource group, uIMPACT, offers programming and speakers and advocates for policy changes to attract and retain diverse talent and inspire the next generation of girls in aviation.