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#WrenchingWomenWednesday with Katie French, featuring Kara Rudnick

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 Kara Rudnik, Diesel Technician at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores in Wisconsin. Kara has earned an Associate Degree in Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment from Blackhawk Technical College.

This is Kara’s story

I always get asked (at least once per week) how I got into the industry. I tell everyone that I bought a car when I was seventeen that was a beater. My high school offered automotive classes where you could bring in your own car and work on it, so I decided to take that class as an elective. I had never really looked under the hood of a car before then. Once I took that first class, I never looked back. My teacher was so supportive and encouraged me to go bigger- go diesel if I wanted more money- so that’s what I did.

I went to a technical college for two years and got my Associates Degree in Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment. My first “foot in the door” job out of school lasted five months. ($10/hr, no overtime, no uniforms.) It was working on Peterbilt trucks and step deck trailers. I obviously wasn’t happy with those terms so I started looking for another job and was eventually recruited for an oil field services company. They had offered relocation and a large pay increase. Naturally, I took it and moved from Wisconsin to Texas and worked in a shop fixing oil field equipment for the next six years.

During my time in the oil field, I had my first child. When I returned from maternity leave, I realized that I didn’t want to work the twelve-to-fifteen-hour shifts anymore, so I asked for a position change. I went into an office position for three years. When COVID happened, I was part of the mass lay-offs in the oil field. I was able to stay home with my children until April of 2022. After that, I found a part-time job doing oil and tire changes for around twenty hours per week. It was alright, but there were a lot of red flags with management so I chose not to pursue anything more than that at the time.

Later on, they switched management up and my new shop manager (a woman) discovered that I had so much experience and education. That opened the door for me to work full-time and get paid a wage that I deserved. I’m now making almost double what I initially was there. Now, I am always learning new things and finally getting to use my tools again.

All that time that I had been out of the shop and in the office, I hated it. In addition to that, having to stay home for two years really made me depressed. Now that I’m finally back in the shop, I feel so much more like me again! I have been blessed to have such a super supportive husband and family, and the workplaces I’ve been in have been so encouraging.

Every day now I get to be the customer’s “firsts” by being the first female mechanic they’ve had work on their trucks. I feel like I’m part of the change, and it’s so damn awesome.

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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