Opportunities for Women in Automotive Industry – Interview With Tony Molla
Tony Molla is the Vice President of Communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in Leesburg, VA. With over 35 years experience in the automotive service industry, Tony has held positions at all levels, including technician, service manager, parts store manager, new car sales and automotive technical editor writing service manuals for the Chilton Book Company. He has authored more than a dozen technical and car care manuals. Prior to joining ASE in January, 2000, Tony spent nine years as the Editorial Director of Motor Age magazine and Automotive Body Repair News (ABRN).
ASK PATTY: Can you tell us a little bit about your job and your position at The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)?
Tony: I am responsible for all Corporate, external and internal communications at ASE. This includes things like press releases, industry presentations, trade shows and our website content. I also manage our Consumer Outreach efforts, which include free articles sent out to consumer publications like newspapers and magazines across the country. I also manage our outreach programs which involve our sponsorships in several areas. The largest is our participation in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where we sponsor Ted Musgrave’s No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Racing Toyota Tundra. We also have smaller sponsorships with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, with a presence at air shows across the country, and a sponsorship of three Professional Bull Riders in the PBR Series. We also have a grassroots racing program called Team ASE which involves our ASE certified professionals who race their own vehicles. I am also the publisher of the ASE Tech News, our Corporate publication which goes to over 500,000 subscribers consisting mostly of ASE certified professionals and our industry supporters.
ASK PATTY: What does it mean to be ASE certified?
Tony: ASE Certification works like any other professional certification. Auto and truck professionals must take and pass an industry-developed competency test in one or more areas of expertise to become certified. There are eight tests in the auto series, for example. If an individual passes all tests in a series, they achieve Master Technician status. Being ASE certified means you have demonstrated the knowledge necessary to be proficient at a given task, plus have at least two years of hands-on repair experience. ASE also certifies parts professionals, service consultants, machinists, alternate fuels technicians, transit bus technicians, truck and collision technicians. It’s important to note that ASE certification is a voluntary program, so the individuals who have achieved it have also demonstrated a pride and professionalism that goes above and beyond the norm. These are the individuals you want working on your car.
ASK PATTY: Why are you promoting automotive careers to women? Are more women needed in the automotive field?
Tony: ASE has continuously promoted the value of an automotive career to both men and women, but the demand for women in particular has risen in recent years. This rise in demand has several reasons, not the least of which is the growing shortfall in qualified technical individuals available, but women have been proven to be particularly effective in the role of service consultant. As more and more women assume the role of primary caretaker of the family automobile, it’s becoming more important to improve the communications process at the service desk–and it’s been shown that female service consultants are very effective in that role. It’s also important to note that traditionally, women have made up about one percent of the technician workforce as well. In fact, there are a few shops out there that are exclusively staffed by women.
ASK PATTY: Can you tell us about your speaking program at schools? How are you educating and inspiring young women to consider a career in automotive?
Tony: I participate as a speaker in several Career Day events around the country each year. It’s really more a question of being invited back rather than a formal program by ASE. That said, I consider my time in front of young people some of the most important work I do. I speak with kids from the elementary to the high school level and always make it a point to spotlight the opportunities for women within the industry. Some of the best automotive diagnosticians I’ve met have been women, and the opportunities for a woman with a good technical background in the automotive industry is outstanding. These presentations I mention also use some brochures ASE has developed which outline some of the opporutnities within the industry for both male and female candidates.
ASK PATTY: Are women aware of the opportunities available to them in the automotive industry?
Tony: Actually, I’m continuously surprised at just how few women and men are aware of the wealth of opportunities available. We in the industry work hard to keep both Guidance Counselors and parents informed of what a great career choice it can be, but it’s clear we have some work yet to do to get the message out more widely.
ASK PATTY: What other types of jobs are available in automotive that aren’t service or mechanic’s jobs?
Tony: The possibilities are almost limitless. What I find interesting is how a technical background can open doors down the road in ways most never even imagine. I myself started out as an auto technician and worked part time while I went to college. Once I graduated, I found the earning potential much better in the service bay. In fact, it was largely my technical background, along with a degree in Journalism, that led to my current position. Along the way, I’ve held positions writing service manuals and as Editorial Director of two national trade magazines for auto and collision shops. But I’m just one example. There are opportunities in the automotive industry in sales, marketing, engineering, design, manufacturing, human resources, advertising, the list goes on and on. If you think about it, the automotive industry is a lot more than just selling and fixing cars.
ASK PATTY: What are some resources to women who are interested in starting a career in the automotive industry?
Tony: Perhaps the best resource is your local Technical Training program at either high school or junior college level. Getting involved in the automotive program can provide a deeper insight into the possibilities. There are also several initiatives within the automotive industry to recruit young people into the business. You can find out more by contacting the University of the Aftermarket, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, or some of the dedicated technical colleges like Universal Technical Institute or Wyo Tech, just to name a few. You can also contact us here at ASE with any questions. We’ll be happy to help in any way we can.
Thank you for the great interview Tony!