Ask Patty often interviews great women in the automotive industry, and Maura Schreier-Fleming is no exception. With her background in Mobil Oil as the first female lube engineer, she made a great interviewee. In fact, we even wrangled her to be on our expert panel!
Ask Patty: I heard
a little rumor that you were one of the first female lube engineer with
Mobil Oil. Can you tell us about that job and what it entailed?
Maura Schreier-Fleming: Yes, I was their first female Lube engineer in the US. I was part of the commercial division. It was one of the best jobs I had. I worked with sales engineers delivering the technical support for their accounts. I provided the engineering work that was related to the lubricants these accounts purchased. I had accounts like Northeast Utilities, Stanley Works, and Pittney-Bowes. I worked primarily with plant engineers and taught the maintenance staff about lubricants and their correct application. I looked for ways to extend oil life and reduce maintenance costs. I enjoyed working with the diverse type of equipment and the really interesting maintenance and engineering staff.
AP: How did you get your certification or learn how to be a lube engineer? Did you go to school to learn?
MSF: Mobil did a great job of providing training. I went to Mobil's ongoing training programs after the initial 6 weeks of training on lubricants. I did have an understanding of machine elements as I did take classes in auto mechanics from Dekalb Tech in Atlanta at night. I took a semester of engine tune up and a semester of hydraulic brakes. I also worked on my own car doing tune-ups, oil changes, valve adjustments and repacking wheel bearings.
AP: How long did you work in the automotive industry?
MSF: I wasn't exclusively in the automotive industry having sold lubricants to both industrial and quick lube operations. But, I was in the oil business for 21 years.
AP: What was the hardest thing about working in a male-dominated industry like automotive?
MSF: I really didn't think it was hard. I had the attitude that I wasn't really different. I know some women might be preoccupied with that. I never was. I worked with great guys and did my job. I did experience one manager who was uncomfortable managing a female and I made sure we talked about cars and mechanical components till he got to know me and was comfortable with me. I made sure I worked hard, continuously learned and took a genuine interest in helping improve my customers' businesses. That made it easy. I was working hard for them.
AP: What advice would you give a young woman who wanted to start a career in the automotive industry?
MSF: I think any industry where you can be judged by the results you deliver is a great industry to join. Automotive does that by being numbers focused in sales and service. There are so many aspects of performance that can be measured so it makes it much easier for a woman to prove her worth. I'm all about fairness. Just give me a shot and I'll get the job done. I think many women need those types of opportunities and automotive provides them.
AP: Can you give us one good tip about auto care or maintenance... something every woman should know?
MSF: Make sure you know how to do the basics. How to check your oil, how to change a tire, how to replace wiper blades, what the service intervals of your vehicle are. Ignorance is no excuse and it's easy enough to read the manual or ask someone who does know.
AP: What if any are the big changes you are seeing today in how vehicles are being marketed to women? What about service and parts?
MSF: I think the same missed opportunities for women should be addressed to men as well. Customer loyalty should be developed in both, but especially women. From what I've read, women are more loyal customers than men. Dealers could develop processes to address this. I'd like to think that women are not talked down to either. Selling to a woman should be no different than selling to a man in terms of identifying her buying needs and meeting them.
AP: What is one piece of “good” advice you would give women before they buy a new vehicle?
MSF: Do the research. Look at total cost of ownership. Decide how long you plan to keep your car and find the dealer who makes it easiest for you to maintain your car.
AP: Tell me about your most recent personal experience buying a vehicle. What vehicle did you buy, and why did you buy it?
MSF: I bought a Lexus a couple of years ago. I first shopped on line to get pricing information. Then I called a couple of dealers. I spoke with 2 very talented professionals and ended up buying from the Lexus dealer closest to my home. I wanted to make it easiest for me to have my car serviced even though they have loaner cars at both, I wanted to reduce the drive time to get to the dealer to drop my car off. They're a Balridge Award winner and they deliver great service. (On time service promises.)
Maura Schreier-Fleming is one of Ask Patty's automotive expert panelists. You can see her bio here.