Dani web 039 women in automotive

A hands-on career

Dani Salzmann has always worked in the automotive industry. “I knew I needed a job that was hands on, as I couldn’t ever imagine myself working in an office. Someone mentioned being a mechanic, I gave it a go and loved it! I love that it’s such a hands-on career. Getting away from a desk is a big plus, as well as seeing the new cars and technology that continues to come through,” she explains.

Starting out as an apprentice (for the Swiss Post and Telecom, as their first ever female employee in the workshop) and then mechanic in Switzerland, Dani has had a lot of variety during her career in different roles in New Zealand and Australia. Currently, she is a Vehicle Tester at the AA in Napier and has been there for eight years.

“My current role includes carrying out compliance checks on cars coming into New Zealand from overseas. This means I check the cars from “tip to toe” to ensure they comply with NZ standards and are safe to be driven. The work includes entering the car's data into the computer and producing a ‘VIN’ plate that gets affixed to the car as a unique identification number.”

“When I first arrived in New Zealand I had to fight to get a job and had a feeling it was because I was a woman. Once, I applied for a mechanic role at a company and received no response. After a while, I was getting desperate and applied to that same company as a car groomer. I received a call for an interview and ended up being offered the role. Well, after two days working there as a car groomer I was offered the mechanic role! It felt like I had to prove that I knew what I was doing and that I had a good work ethic.”

“Another time, I applied for a Service Manager role and received a call from the hiring manager. As soon as he heard my voice, he quickly said “I need to call you back” and hung up. Later, I learned that he was very startled and shocked that I was a woman (even though my CV clearly stated my name is Daniela)! He ended up apologising, I had an interview and was offered the role.”

Dani said some challenges included not having a female bathroom on the premises (in Switzerland) and having to go to a different building across the road. “Not easy for a shy 16-year-old. My confidence has grown immensely over the years and most recently when I started in my current role, I had to ask for a sanitary bin to be put in the bathroom. This would have been too embarrassing for a younger me. It was still a bit nerve wracking to ask as I didn't know how my manager would respond but he was very professional about it. He had never had to organise this before but instead of telling me to organise it myself, he found a supplier for delivery and regular change.”

To anyone wanting to get into the industry - just do it! If you’re passionate about your work, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Dani Salzmann

Dani says that over the years she has had many other experiences like being told by employers that having a woman in the workshop has "calmed" the boys and made them watch their language and general behaviour. She has also found that some of the female customers prefer talking to her rather than one of the male mechanics as some feel they can trust a woman more. “It may also be because when explaining the work that has been done on a customer’s car I like to use ‘simple’ words, rather than mechanics jargon. I still sometimes get overlooked by customers that come to the workshop and want to speak to a mechanic. This can be frustrating.”

“I want to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone so have put my hand up to be part of the Women in Automotive group at the AA and support other women into the industry. I hope that by sharing my stories, others won’t feel so alone in their experiences, and it will help them be confident to follow their passions in working in this space. To anyone wanting to get into the industry - just do it! If you’re passionate about your work, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

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