WinA Member of the Month
This month, we are featuring Menka Michaelides.
Menka is a co-owner of Prorepair Auto Care Centre. In her Q&A, she talks about finding inspiration from the 2022 Signature Luncheon event.
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'm a co-owner of Prorepair Auto Care Centre and have been involved in the auto industry for just over 6 years - the business itself has been running for 25 years. I'm involved in every aspect of the business (like most small business owners are) from business advancement to admin/accounts, compliance, inventory, payroll, customer service, pick-ups and deliveries. When someone calls us, I also answer the phones. No doubt many reading this will be nodding their heads because that's exactly the role of business owners, wearing many hats through the day.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
When I first joined the business, it was just to assist for a few weeks but then I saw an opportunity for us to modify the business and found that my workplace skills were transferrable. I initially joined the business working in a back-end compliance role that I found exciting. I loved that I could impact the business directly and if it was not a right move, I could change the process. This was refreshing coming from a corporate role, where it would take months and lots of meetings, sometimes without even achieving anything.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
Sure, there’s always a challenge working in a male-dominated industry. I've found many times that customers wanted to speak with Steve, my husband and co-owner, over me. To counteract this, I educated myself in the ordering process and servicing requirement for vehicles. Unbeknown to many customers, this is what every mechanic does, checking the system to work out what is due on the next service.
In terms of suppliers, I've found them very welcoming and helpful. With the team of five men I work with, there have been no issues at all. Having a woman present in our business has also changed our type of customer and this is now bringing in more female customers.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
Whilst we already had a functioning business and customer base, I have been able to implement compliance and processes that have streamlined the business to run more efficiently. Because of this, we've been able to tender for some large accounts and get them. We now have a more professional approach to doing business, not only with our customers, but our suppliers as well. I'm a huge believer in building relationships and I think we do this extremely well.
On a personal level, I initially found it difficult to work together with Steve, my husband, and then go home and not discuss work. When chatting with previous colleagues, nearly all told me they couldn’t do it and I think this made it even more difficult. Only when I talked to other people who work with their partners in the auto industry did I appreciate what we were both working towards and achieving.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
When I joined the business, I immediately called the VACC and asked them what does being a member really mean. Prorepair has been a member for 25 years but never really tapped into the resources provided. Basically, like many other businesses, we only called if there was a problem. Instead, I decided to be proactive and requested audits of our business to ensure we were compliant.
From the VACC, I was introduced to Imogen Reid and WinA. This is how I've met many women and men who are working towards growing the numbers of women in the automotive industry. This is also where I've met other women who work with their partners and was able to have great conversations about how to tackle taking work problems home. It has been a great resource for me. It's wonderful that the VACC is encouraging the development of women through WinA.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
There are more women today working their way up in the industry and this is great to see. I've been lucky enough to work in a few different industries and what always strikes me is a young woman breaking barriers. I recently attended a WinA event and had the opportunity to see and listen to Molly Taylor, a young rally driver champion who is so enthusiastic about what she does. Her mum is also an Australian rally co-driver champion and I found this really inspirational. By just listening to her story, I really felt these women have worked hard to get where they are, and this is what makes us great!
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Listen to what is happening within your environment and speak up. When you speak, be confident. Remember that you have achieved your role on your own.