WinA Member of the Month
This month we feature Shelley Jones as WinA Member of the Month. Shelley’s candid honesty about how hard it is to be a female mechanic is backed up by her gushing about how rewarding it is if you can tough it out.
From growing up on a dairy farm in West Gippsland, Shelley’s love of all things tractors and mowers drew her to complete her Mobile Plant apprenticeship. Her apprenticeship led her to working in quite the niche world of small diesel tractors, mowers and pumps. She now is a wellness facilitator for the VACC, travelling around the State visiting workshops and implementing a mental health wellness program.
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 am currently a Wellness Facilitator with the VACC, implementing the Fine Tuning Automotive Mental Health Program within workshops. It’s in accordance with Worksafe Workwell and Alcohol and Drugs Australia.
It’s a fantastic role that takes me all around the State visiting an array of workshops. I’m very grateful for the role, I feel that it was made for me!
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
I completed my Mobile Plant apprenticeship with an agricultural repair shop, and have always been around farm machinery and garden power equipment – as I grew up on a dairy farm in West Gippsland. I love all things tractors and mowers. I found myself working within quite a niche area, as I worked on small diesel tractors, mowers and pumps.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
Yes absolutely. I found it took a little longer for me to gain the trust from male customers bringing in a mower for repair. At the start, they would actually ask for a male mechanic, but once they got to know me – and I repaired their machine, I gained trust. You just have to know how to relate to them, whilst being very professional.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
My biggest achievement was finishing my apprenticeship and obtaining that “Mobile Plant” certificate. My biggest personal achievement was running the mower section of a very big branch in the company I worked with. I was responsible for up to 30 mowers at a time, it was very stressful but rewarding at the same time.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
I met many wonderful mechanics over the years, who all helped me and taught me so much, its hard to choose just one!
My biggest mentor throughout my time as a mechanic, was my Heavy Diesel TAFE teacher Barry Jones at Chisholm TAFE in Dandenong. Barry really helped me along and is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge! He assisted me when I had a few problems at work, he is a force to be reckoned with! Very professional and an excellent teacher. We remain great friends to this day.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
My mum. She isn’t in the field professionally, but growing up on the farm, as a dairy farmers wife, she could fix a fence, weld, drive a tractor all hours of the day, ride a farm bike better than most and fix anything. She is my biggest inspiration. She works so hard and wanted no thanks – just to get the job done. That ethic has been instilled into me, and she’s my biggest inspiration.
A quote from her “always arrive to work early, drink water, and remember there is no such word as can’t”.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
My honest advice to women looking to become mechanics, is to make sure it’s REALLY what you want to do. It might look ‘cool’ at the start, but it’s VERY hard work. Your hands get smashed daily, your back aches and you may not get taken seriously. But if you stick to it, complete all your TAFE work, LISTEN to those who have been doing it for years earn that respect - you will find it so rewarding. Especially when you can start to service and repair your own vehicle, or your friend’s vehicle. It’s about repetition, doing the same jobs and picking up on problems you didn’t know about prior.
It’s a great feeling getting a pat on the back for diagnosing a problem. It makes you want to learn even more. You will get some weird looks, or sly comments but that’s the sad reality of the culture. Just put your head down and remember why you started the trade in the first place. You’ll be amazed at how much respect you get. Stick to it!