Recently, at the Hino Hino National Skills Contest, a female reached the finals for the first time, as the sales, parts and service people competed, showing off their skills in servicing trucks, identifying parts and selling them.
This year saw the competition’s first female finalist, Kara Green, a parts interpreter working for Adtrans Hino in Smeaton Grange on the outskirts of Sydney. When the final results were read out Kara had achieved second in the parts interpretation contest, behind the overall winner Stan Voltemar from WA Hino.
Kara does not come from a background which would have suggested she would make a success in the world of truck components. Up until three years ago she was working as a singer and a dancer in a stage show and had no knowledge of trucks or the trucking industry.
The dancing profession is not a particularly steady career and Kara began to supplement her income working as a delivery driver for a vehicle parts company. Luckily for Kara, she didn’t need any knowledge of vehicle parts to do the job, she just had to drive. One of the customers she delivered to regularly was Adtrans and she got to know the staff there.
“I knew nothing about trucks, I only knew how to fill up my car with petrol,” says Kara. “The parts manager at Adtrans at the time, got to know me and offered me a job as a parts interpreter. I told him I knew nothing at all, but he held on and took me on, I did my apprenticeship and here I am.
“I really enjoy the fact that I learn things every day, coming from having no experience with the automotive industry at all. It’s good because my husband is a mechanic, so when he talks to me I have an understanding of what he’s talking about. I had gotten blasé about what he was telling me, but now I get it. He’s impressed that I know things. In fact, guys seem a lot easier to get along with now.”
Kara works in a small team of three, she works on the front desk with one colleague. She is responsible for parts interpreting, as well as working out parts orders and packaging parts. She is not sat in front of the computer all day, there is plenty of variation in the work.
“I find that some people presume I don’t know what I’m talking about because I am female,” says Kara. “They are like that to begin with, but it is OK. As a woman I think I work with a different level of care to some of the guys here. I tend to get things out quicker and a lot of customers come to me because of that. I don’t bullshit them, by telling them things I don’t know anything about. If I don’t know something, I’ll tell them I don’t know.
“In the Hino National Skills Contest there were six of us in the parts competition. I was the first female to make it through to the final. I was very surprised I did so well. A lot of people in the competition have been working in the automotive industry for a very long time, and been with Hino for a long time.
“Doing this job you need to ask a hell of a lot of questions to make sure you get the right thing for people. You need to keep asking until you’re sure, look at any pictures, anything to help. It can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, but it’s worth it to get the right part in the end.”
Kara finished her apprenticeship in February and clearly loves the job. She has brought some precision to her task and is happily settled in the parts department at Adtrans. This care and efficiency in her work was clearly demonstrated at the skills competition at which she finished runner up.
“I am happy where I am, I don’t want to go into cars or anything, I like working with trucks,” says Kara. “I haven’t had any problems yet because I am a woman. Although, when a customer comes in, they will see me sitting here and one of the guys and they will just assume I am the receptionist until I ask them whether I can help them.
“They say, ‘Oh, you can help me’ and they are surprised that I can. There is that thing where women are receptionists and men do the job. However, as soon as they know that I am an interpreter, they are happy to deal with me.
“I am still learning every day, I still have to ask the guys if I am dealing with a big job like an engine quote. I am not sure about all of the things I have to include in the quote. When it comes to things like body panels, I am pretty sweet with it now.”