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Ambach Finds Superpower in Power Sports

Laken (Jorgensen) Ambach (Power Sports & Marine Technology ’14) isn’t afraid to chase her dreams, even when the route is a little harder to follow.

“My dad had his own body shop, and I grew up helping him,” the Kadoka, S.D., native said. “It was just me and my sister, and my dad always wished he’d had a son, of course, so I grew up a tomboy, always handling things that boys would normally handle.”

Originally planning to follow in her dad’s professional footprints, Ambach said a Mitchell Tech Power Sports commercial caught her attention and spurred a last[1]minute decision to pursue an education closer to home in a niche market that catered to one of her hobbies.

“We were pretty spoiled growing up – my dad made sure we had toys, and we were always on motorcycles, dirt bikes and ATVs,” she said, so her love of fixing things and the thrill of adventure made perfect sense.

When she arrived on campus, Ambach was the only female student in a program with 19 male peers.“It was very intimidating at first, but I like challenges, so I made it a challenge – I wanted to be the top of my class, because nobody thought I could do it,” she said. “So, I worked hard to prove I could be the best. It was fun being the only chick in my class and proving myself. Some of the (work is harder), because you don’t have the physical manpower of a guy. I had to work hard to get stronger in order to do some of the things that a technician is expected to do.”

That hard work paid off, however, and Ambach graduated at the top of her class, earning the Spirit of Mitchell Tech award. Since graduation, she has worked at Vern Eide Motoplex in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“Customers often ask for ‘one of the guys in the back,’” Ambach said with a laugh. In 2019, she was promoted to service manager, overseeing 25 staff members, including 14 technicians, most of them male. “It was very intimidating at first,” she said. “Now it kind of feels like a superpower. Once someone realizes the knowledge that I do have, they become my lifelong customers.”

Ambach prefers to have at least some women on the team, however.

“We think differently, we attack things differently,” she said. “Everyone treats women like they don’t know what the hell we’re doing, so we work harder to make sure that we do. I have very good luck hiring chicks in this male[1]dominated field.”

When young women approach her about her career, Ambach said she encourages them to pursue their dreams, keeping their eye on their goal, rather than on what’s going on around them.

“People don’t expect you to go into a field like this and succeed, so it can get in your head, and you start to think that maybe that’s not what you’re cut out to do. There were definitely days that I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, but I pushed through it,” she said.

She added that she was able to secure enough scholarships to pay in full for her first year at Mitchell Tech.

“There’s definitely money out there for people to apply for, and there’s extra for females who want to work in a male field,” she said. “They just have to do the work for it.”

As a manager, Ambach admitted she pushes Mitchell Tech graduates’ applications to the top of her pile when she’s hiring.

“There are tons of other schools that have these kinds of classes, but most of them are more classroom-based.

The amount of hands-on time in shop classes at Mitchell Tech” prepares technicians well for the demands of the industry, she said.

“There are some schools in the U.S. that I will not hire from, because they don’t get hands-on learning. They had book learning, and that’s not what we need in the industry.”

As a result of her experience, both as a student and in the field, Ambach became an advocate for technical education.

“I encourage people who are trying to decide where to go to college to take a two-year school. You don’t need four years of education and debt to make good money. You just need a foundation and experience,” she said, adding, “that’s what’s keeping the world going right now.”

And she stressed the value of general education courses in preparing for a career.

“I can’t tell you how many times I think back to my psychology class about how a customer feels when they come into the shop,” she said. “Even stuff people don’t think they should be taking – it is important to absorb as much info on that stuff as possible. You need to be people-smart and understand why people think the way that they think.”

And, while Ambach believes women can do just as well in the power sports field as men, she said she appreciated the safety and security she felt while living in the Mitchell community as a young adult.


“Mitchell is such a good town to be able to become your own self. It’s a small-town feel, so you know that you’re safe. It’s a good town to be able to explore and not worry about something bad happening, along with still having the opportunity to do things on the weekend,” she said. “It was a good town to be a young female living alone.”


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