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Wrenching Women Wednesday with Katie French, featuring Missy Stephens

Each week for Wrenching Women Wednesday, we focus our efforts on shining a light on Women in Automotive and their journey’s in automotive. This week, we would like to introduce Missy Stephens, Community Engagement Manager at Auto Care Association.

This is Missy's story

Growing up, as a little girl, I always dreamed of selling auto parts. Wait, that’s not what happened. But I did always love fast cars and pick up trucks growing up. I had a natural interest in cars. My first car was an 86 Mustang, V6. It was cute… it started my love affair with Mustangs. Within a year, I had my eye on a 90 Mustang GT 5.0. I remember the conversation with my Dad very clearly. I took him to look at the car and said “Dad, I want to buy this car.” After zero hesitation, he said “Nope, that’s too much car for you sis. And you can’t drive a five speed.” I bought the car, he taught me to drive it, I got my first speeding ticket less than a month later. My Dad didn’t believe that being a woman was reason to not be able to do for yourself. He taught me a lot about work ethic and cars. Before I could ever pull out of the driveway in that first car, I had to be able to check the oil, change a spare and understand how to jump a battery. When I was 19, and in college he said, “I found a perfect job for you to work while you are in school.”

He had found a job in the paper for a secretary for a Mom & Pop accessory shop. He was right, it was the perfect job for me. I worked there for 3-4 years, eventually running the second location they had opened. I was officially hooked. It wasn’t in the cards for me to leave the industry from then on. I went on to work for Ziebart and managed stores for them for 6 years, before we hit the big recession. Window Tint, Spray In Bedliners and Accessories weren’t necessities, but car parts were. I went on to work for Advance Auto Parts for years, I was a General Manager for them, then an Account Manager, calling on shops and finally took a position at their HQ where I traveled the country assisting the field with different corporate initiatives. From there I took a position with NAPA, as a Category Manager for Tools & Equipment. While working at NAPA, a good friend of mine invited me to a Women in Auto Care Conference. I came away very inspired and wanted to understand how to be more involved. I began volunteering as a Champion for scholarships. As a Category Manager for Tools & Equipment, I instantly thought I could help with Tool Kits. NAPA supported my involvement and stepped up in a big way by donating Carlyle Tools Master Sets. The next year I started partnering with other suppliers to add onto the Master Tool Set with items like a Tool Cart, Power Tools, Creeper, etc. Over the years we have grown the program to give away more than $150,000 in Tool Kits annually, in addition to the cash scholarships Women in Auto Care Awards.

As Women in Auto Care continued to grow and pick up momentum, the Auto Care Association realized that the program needed a full-time resource. When I heard about the opening, I immediately thought, “That is my job.” In October, I was hired as a Community Engagement Manager for the Auto Care Association. I head up the following communities: Women in Auto Care, Tools & Equipment and Car Care Professionals Network.

While coming up as a woman in the automotive industry has had its challenges, it has had far more rewards. Each job I have held, at each company I have worked for has taught me so much. I am very thankful for every mentor and ally who has impacted my career and made me want to make the Automotive Aftermarket my home. What I especially want young women to understand, is that there is a place for you in this industry, take it. I would also say, the friends you make along the way in this industry, you will likely continue to run into throughout your career in different facets. The same is true for enemies, do not burn your bridges. Lastly, build your tribe. Having a group of professional friends, you can lean into and look to for inspiration and support is priceless.

Also, I have hung up fast cars for a nice, big, comfy Buick Enclave

About Katie French

Katie French is an Automotive Repair Expert at RepairPal. Her love for the automotive industry began at a young age learning how to fix bicycles and driving around the neighborhood in a pink Power Wheels Jeep. To pursue a career in the field, Katie attended NEIT for Advanced Automotive Technology out in East Greenwich, RI. Since graduating from the automotive program, Katie has worn many hats in the auto industry over the years, and has treated every day as a school day. She currently is working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Management with a concentration in Fleet Management from Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, MO. In her free time, Katie enjoys empowering women in skilled trades, Jeep builds, and spending time with her family.

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