WinA Member of the Month
Know of someone you would like to see featured as our next Women in Automotive Member of the Month, or interested in sharing your own automotive story? Get in touch below and let us know.
Tell us a bit about your current role or involvement in the automotive industry.
I did my apprenticeship from 1988 -1991 and was employed in a dealership as a qualified motor mechanic from 1991-2000. During this time, I had a few roles within the business, from workshop controller to warranties, invoicing and service advising. I started my own business in 2000 and am still running this business and working daily as a mechanic. I received a VACC Certificate 4 Scholarship in 2015, which I am proud to say I completed in 2018.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
I started at the age of 15 in 1986 as a petrol station/workshop driveway attendant every day after school and on the weekends. I filled customer’s vehicles with fuel, checked their engine oil level, topped up engine oil if required, filled their wiper washer bottles and checked tyre pressure. I then progressed into the workshop in 1987 and later started as an automotive apprentice in 1988.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
Definitely. Unfortunately, I come from an era where female mechanics were not accepted in society yet. There was no knowledge, assistance, guidance, mental health help or rules in place to protect female mechanics in the 80s and 90s.
At the age of 16, my mother and my best friend held an intervention for me in the hope of getting me to leave the automotive industry. When this didn't work, I was kicked out of home by my father because all his male friends were giving him a hard time about me working in the automotive industry.
I was one of only 5 girls at trade school when I started my apprenticeship. Unfortunately, I was the only one to complete my apprenticeship. Not only were the other male students rude and bullies to us, but so were the teachers. We were constantly put down and pushed around and this continued with the male staff while I was employed as a qualified motor mechanic.
However, it was definitely a job I wanted to do, and I was good at it. I was a fast worker because I could multitask, and I was patient. So, I would ignore the other staff members’ behaviour until I was confident enough to start my own business. Since then, I have hired two female mechanics in the last 23 years.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
I would say owning my own business in 2000. There were not many female mechanics running their own businesses back then. A lot of customers would not use my business because I was a female mechanic, but I stuck with it even after my business was torched in 2006 and I lost everything. I have rebuilt my business another two times; 1st was after a fire and 2nd was in 2015 because I outgrew the 500 square-meter workshop I was working in. I moved my business 20km away from the first two workshops so I could own my own 700-square-metre building.
I have won a number of business awards over the years: Victorian Dealer Award in 2012, Most Improved Workshop in 2016, Customer Service Nomination in 2016 and National Dealer Award in 2018. I am also a mother of 2 children, an 18-year-old son and a 11-year-old daughter. It has not been easy by any means managing to raise children and run a workshop at the same time, but I am happy with the effort and achievements I have made in both.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
I have to say Woman in Automotive through VACC has been awesome over the years. It’s very insightful to the changes in the industry and inspiring to see many more women in the industry. Hopefully, over the next few years, more and more women will join the industry. Women make great mechanics, the passion is there, they are very patient, caring, resourceful and knowledgeable.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
Before I worked as a driveway attendant, I approached a lot of workshops to ask for an apprenticeship, but I was turned away by most from Wantirna to Belgrave. My last stop was Selby Garage. This petrol station/workshop was owned by a husband-and-wife team. The husband turned me away, but his wife ran after me and asked why I was there.
I told her I was looking for an apprenticeship, but that the gentleman had turned me away. She ran the petrol and tyre side of the business, so she offered me a job attending the driveway and I took it. Over time she taught me to replace tyres as well. Eventually, the husband was impressed with my work ethic and offered me an apprenticeship. I have been forever grateful for the opportunity I was given back then and have stayed close friends with the wife.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Be passionate, patient, strong, confident, kind to yourself, believe in yourself, trust your ability and always be happy in yourself. Don't rely on other people to do this for you.
It’s important to understand that everyone has different opinions. You don't have to agree with other opinions but by understanding that everyone has different views, you are likely to feel more comfortable in a less traditional role. All these qualities will make a great, understanding and compassionate person in work and in life.