by Jennifer Frey
"Are there any Service men that I could talk to?"
"I'd like to talk to someone that knows what they're doing."
"I didn't realize there were women in the Service Department."
Sadly, these phrases are not uncommon when you are a female working as a Service Writer. These things have been said to me everyday, by men AND women alike. Unfortunately, the world doesn't seem ready to take their Automotive advice from a woman. There have been times when the male Service Writer had 5 customers waiting for him, while I had no one. I have often wanted to explain my background and experience, so customers would be willing to work with me.
I caught the Automotive bug when I was about 16 years old. My older brother was trading up for a new sports car, so I got his old Honda. I wanted to learn how to fix it up, so I went to my local bookstore and started thumbing through the car magazines. I saw all these amazing cars, customized to the extreme and race ready. It was then that my passion for all things Honda was born.
I went down to my local Honda dealer and basically begged for a job. Even though I had no experience, the Service Manager was amazed at how passionate I was about cars. I started working as an assistant to the Service Writers, answering phones and writing up oil changes. I would sneak back to the shop every chance I could and the mechanics were glad to show me the ropes. I knew I wasn't supposed to be back there, and I'd try to hide whenever I saw my boss coming, but he could always spot my bright pink shoelaces.
After about a year there I heard one of the mechanics mention a Honda school. As soon as I heard that I could learn about and work on Hondas all day long I made it my life's goal to get in that school. Luckily, it was only about an hour and a half from where I lived. I met with the Chairman and he told me I could start that September. All of my family, friends, and co-workers thought I was making a huge mistake. My parents were especially skeptical, telling me that I would drop out of this just like I did ballet, basketball, and piano.
Of course having everyone tell me I wouldn't succeed made me that much more determined to show them they were wrong. At first it was really hard, I was the only girl and the guys never took me seriously. They would put spiders down my shirt (dead and alive), make fun of me, and one day they even put 4 frogs in my backpack. They also constantly asked me what my quiz and test scores were, (everyone wanted to see if they did better than the girl). My teachers however, treated me fairly from the beginning. It didn't matter that I was a female, I was a student just like everyone else.
I embraced my femininity by painting my safety glasses bright pink and occasionally bringing cupcakes and other treats to class. The guys saw that I wasn't going anywhere and eventually started to accept me. I was also doing better in my classes, because I stopped analyzing everything I was taught and just accepted it. As time went by, everyone in the Automotive program became like family to me. My assigned partner stayed with me through several semesters, helping me along the way.
When you are removed from your comfort zone and placed into a difficult situation, it is so much more rewarding when you succeed. My 2 years in Automotive school have been the best in my life and I hope my story encourages more people to go after their dreams. I now want to use my knowledge to educate other women about their cars, so we will have a solid place in the Automotive Industry. When you know how your vehicle works, you feel empowered and independent.
It's been almost 7 years and over 100,000 miles since that fateful day in the bookstore. I have a bright future ahead in the Automotive field and more goals I want to accomplish. I get inspired when I hear about other women who are making a difference, they are leaders and great role models to all of us. They are changing the way that women are viewed in the Automotive Industry. I plan to join these ladies, with my old Honda by my side, my pink safety glasses, and a whole lot of courage.