Christel Nelson shared her journey with us because she wants it to be easier for other women to enter the automotive industry. From the beginning she was discouraged from pursuing her passion. She tells us what she overcame, how she endured and finally, how important confidence is to young women who are preparing to join a male-dominated field.
I am a licensed Automotive Service Technician (fancy word for a mechanic). A lot of people ask me how and why I chose this as my career path but truthfully, I just stumbled upon it. As a child I was always the tomboy girl and loved building things, was always interested in how things worked and operated. In high school I was a bit of a degenerate and came to a point where I needed to take my decision-making more seriously, and with that I chose automotive. The rest is history.
Build A Dream is so important to me because my path in this trade was absolutely not a walk in the park. Many people doubted me including a boy I was dating at the time; he would always tell me that perhaps I should just do a girl job. Despite that, I kept my tunnel vision and was determined to see my goal all the way through.
I attended the Motive Power Technician program at Fanshawe which included a paid summer co-op placement. I told the co-op coordinator, “If I’m not good at this, then I’m not good at anything,” meaning I really could not afford to be indecisive as myself and my family do not have a lot of money. I did not want to keep on bouncing from program to program. I got hired at a dealership for the co-op term and proved myself…they hired me on as an apprentice after the school term in 2015, and I’ve been there ever since.
Now, why the Build A Dream message hits me deeply is because I quickly felt the pressures of a hostile work environment. As an apprentice, my peers were always willing to help me and it was lots of love…I was “one of the boys”. But the truth is, I never really was, because when I passed my Certificate of Qualification it seemed that people would go out of their way to sabotage me. Seeing as we were all flat rate, there is a lot of competition as we get paid by the job, not the hour. You have to have a thick skin and have to be mentally tough to work in that environment. Luckily, I have a pretty assertive personality, but even for me there were days I wanted to walk away from it all. And then, a female high school co-op student appeared and they paired her with me (obviously). At first I had a very negative attitude about it, but during her term she looked up to me and she reminded me of how capable I really am. She now works at my dealership full time as an apprentice and I couldn’t be more proud. All I could think about is how I wish I had someone like me when I was her age and that’s why I want to play my role to inspire more young women.
“Keeping the world moving one bolt at a time!”