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Wrenching Women Wednesday with Katie French, featuring Riley Mahl

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 Riley Mahl, Restoration Body Tech. 

This is Riley's story

I kind of fell into the automotive industry. In my sophomore year of high school, I decided I didn't want to go to college and my parents then insisted I go to the tech school that was associated with my high school. I chose machining for my last two years, and senior year I decided to go to Penn College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. Prior to starting my freshman year, I decided to switch majors to their paramedic program. At the end of my first year, I was academically not cut-out for a medical field and had to make a decision because of having an off-campus apartment lease for the next school year already. Looking through the programs offered, the only one that interested me was the automotive restoration degree. From there I fell in love with the industry. By the end of the first year, I was the president of our car club.

In 2020 I was part of a team of students that did a partial restoration on a 1929 Duesenberg J and brought it to the Amelia Island concours.

I've now been out of school since 2020 and working in the industry, currently entering my 3rd year in the industry. Some of the struggles I've faced are due to sexism. I've had shop owners offer to be my sugar daddy, which was rejected in disgust, as well as my fair share of students alongside me that were not pleased that I was more proficient in labs than they were and would talk down to me, or make sexist remarks. Other than that, I struggle a lot being new and not having a lot of knowledge but have lucked out with a great mentor who is willing to teach and answer questions that may seem like common sense.

Something else that I really enjoyed was being part of the 2022 all-female Volvo build for SEMA.

My advice to younger girls looking to get into trades is to not accept “no” when it comes to what you’re capable of. You’re able to do whatever you want to when you put your mind to it, whether it be automotive, welding, electricians, HVAC, construction, or any other trade. You can build muscle to do the job just as well as the guys out there.

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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