The only reliable, unchanging parts of Nina Sisk’s job as a motorcycle technician are the times when she gets into work in the morning and leaves to go home at night.
Everything else is up in the air — and that’s how she likes it.
“It’s a challenge; it’s something new every day,” Nina said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get, whether it’s going to be electrical problems, some noise in the motor. It’s a lot of critical thinking and you’re on time restraints because people want their motorcycles. They don’t want to be without them, and I don’t blame them. So it’s playing all that that gets you involved in it. The more puzzling it is, the more exciting it is because it’s always going to be new, going to be different.”
Nina works at Roughneck Harley-Davidson in Longview. And, as far as anyone can tell (because there’s not a definitive tracking of everyone’s gender when they go through the schooling), she’s one of a handful of female Level 5 Master Technicians for Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the country.
That’s something she feels is going to change just because so many women already love to ride motorcycles.
“I think it’s a starting point,” she said. “We’ve been going into automotive and everything else, why not go into motorcycles? We love the freedom of the open road just as much as everyone else. I think it’s just a period of time before it really catches up.”
To earn master certification, working technicians have to undergo years of schooling and tests. The advancement program is designed to make sure that each master technician knows every in and out of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, from the electrical system to the engine.
Nina first started out tinkering with Harley-Davidson motorcycles when she was going to school to become an accountant. Her dad, who had taught her to ride when she was 16, bought an old Ironhead Sportster and planned to rebuild it.
“He showed me a little bit, worked with me on it, had me tinkering and that started it,” Nina said.
That’s when she knew she wanted to learn more about motorcycles and that she wanted to work on them.
It was the challenge, her love of riding motorcycles and nostalgia for Harley-Davidson that ultimately persuaded Nina to change her career goals. That was OK though, she said,
because she had figured out accounting wasn’t for her. It was a little stale.
“So I finished up my diploma in accounting and spent my summer working two jobs to where I could move my butt to Arizona and go to (the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute),” she said.
Nina met her husband there, and eventually their work took them to Texas and Roughneck Harley in Longview. She’s been working there for 11 years — 10 of which were spent working toward her master technician status.
“For us, between the old management and the newer one, between the two it’s taken us a little longer than some, but that’s OK,” Nina said of her’s and her husband’s certificates. “We’ve got the life experience compared to the school experience, and everybody knows that the life experience is going to give you a lot more in-depth training.”
Looking back, she said she’s glad she made the switch to motorcycles. In addition to finding a career that suits her, Nina said it’s helped her become more outgoing.
“I wanted to be that person,” she said. “I wanted to be outgoing and all that, and that was my push. That was ... I’m going to ride this motorcycle. This is the most craziest, scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I pushed myself to do it, and that’s why I did it.”