WinA Member of the Month
Whether it was working in a dealership as a teen, managing the office of a paint and panel shop, or returning to the world of dealerships as a Front of House Service Manager at Frankston Toyota, Tara Absolom knows the world of automotive from many angles.
Having recently completed a leadership course through the Women in Automotive scholarship program, Tara isn’t letting the momentum stop. Now an enrolled MBA student through Deakin University, we are proud to play witness to and share Tara’s story as our December WinA Member of the Month.
Know of someone you'd like to see at our next WinA Member of the Month? We're looking to feature women from all levels of every sector, so no matter where you sit in the world of automotive, we want to hear it!
Tell us a bit about your current role or involvement in the automotive industry:
Tara: I’ve been working in the industry on and off over the last 10 years, but most currently as the Front of House Service Manager at Frankston Toyota. I came here after owning and working for my own Event and Cake business for 5 years, and although my business was doing really well, I missed the social interaction and the opportunities the automotive industry presented, so I made the decision to step back into it.
When I interviewed for the role, I learned of the vision that the general manager (Howard Bould) had for the dealership, and I strongly resonated with it. Whilst the role has not been without its challenges, we now have a great team (with an equal ratio of male and female staff) and within that, a great support structure.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
Tara: When I was a teen I worked part time in a dealership, but my first official role was an office manager for a paint panel shop. I got to experience a lot of the industry in that role. I then enrolled in and completed a double Certificate IIII (Diploma) in Management, whilst still holding that job down. I wanted to further myself, and on reflection I think I wanted to prove that I had what it took to not only keep the role but to excel in it.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts haven’t?
Tara: Absolutely, but some in a positive impact as well as negative.
It comes down to someone’s interpretation of who they think/assume should be in that role. As a manager, I do often feel like I have to work harder to prove myself than my male counterparts, but at the end of the day, we only need to be equally skilled, and I have some great relationships now that have been built over time with mutual respect. I was employed to work with people and that’s where my skill set is and what I need to focus on.
In automotive, there is a definite shock to the idea that you can be a female, and a mum and still commit to the demands and hours that the role requires. Its not easy but it is doable. It also depends on your team, and the people who work around you. We’re very lucky at my dealership, I’m not the only woman at the table, and I’m not the only woman in a management meeting. That has a big impact on the workplace as a whole.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
Tara: Number one would be winning the WinA scholarship for the Elevate Initiative course. My CFO at the time, Sharon Pask (current Chair of WinA) encouraged me to apply.
I’ve just completed the course and I absolutely loved it. Through doing something like that, you’re not only opening a door for yourself, but you’re also opening it for others. There isn’t a lot of women at that level of management, especially not in service, but the idea of being able to assist others in their career was the main attraction behind applying for the scholarship. Then, being able to further that bout of confidence by applying to start studying my MBA, which I was recently accepted for and have just started, would also be one of my proudest achievements. I don’t have an existing university degree in the field, so being accepted into it was a such big achievement, and one that I am very proud of.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
Tara: For me, one of the biggest resources for women in the industry is each other. It’s also important to have a mentor. I’ve had a few, male and female, and they’ve been of immense assistance. I also reference WinA frequently, ever since I was originally introduced to it, I've come to love it.
Tara with previous WinA member of the month, Linzi Eccles, at a Business Chicks networking event.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
Tara: I don’t have an individual inspiration specifically. It’s going to sound odd, but I take inspiration and take things on board from the people around me every day. Whether that’s people in my workplace or otherwise, I think learning from the people around you in invaluable.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Tara: Values. Knowing what your values are, and not being prepared to give them up is a really important part of becoming the person you want to be. Wherever you’re working, you need to make sure the business values and your own align. I’ve opened doors for myself that I didn’t think possible, which is fantastic, but now my role is to open doors for others who can’t yet open it for themselves.