Automotive is full of opportunities and this rising star in the commercial world is grasping them with both hands.

What inspired you to follow a career in automotive?

My dad was a welder and he had lots of tools in the house, and when I was young I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. When I was in high school,

I had to do work experience so I asked myself what did I want to do in the future? I saw an opportunity as a mechanic and I ended up at an independent garage in Queensbury.

Did you enjoy the work experience placement?

Yes. I remember my very first job, it was a Citroën C4. They showed me how to change the brake pad on one side and I quickly took the tools, ran to the other side and within a couple of minutes I said “Done.” I stuck with the garage for about four years and finished my Level 3 apprenticeship with them.

It was like a little family.

Where did your career take you after your first job?

I moved to Kwik Fit and worked my way up. They were shocked because they were like, “You’re a girl. You’re not a real technician.” One of them thought I was working for Watchdog!

They were shocked to see how I could complete jobs quickly and were really impressed. One of the area managers took me under his wing. I told him what I wanted to do in management and he put me in different centres to experience different things.

I worked in a lot of Kwik Fits in West London and took a trainee supervisor’s role at the Brentford centre after about a year there. I always took my toolbox with me though, because if there was a job I could do quickly then I would.

I then took a supervisor role at National Tyres but realised I’d rather have my hands on tools because I was doing a lot of supervising and didn’t have knowledge of the new cars. So I moved to Car Giant. I’d never worked at a main dealer and wanted that experience, so I moved there as a technician.

It was good. I was taking off bumpers, changing grills, making the cars look standard again. I enjoyed it but didn’t get to do the servicing.

I moved to Volkswagen to get more servicing experience. I was there for four and a half years. During that time I became an MOT tester, learning to work on some of the electric vehicles. I then got a workshop controller’s job at Nissan, but was only there for about two months before I was contacted by Shorterm Group.

What made you make the move to Shorterm Group as part of its Bus Engineer Upskilling Programme and your placement at Go-Ahead London?

I’d always wanted to work on commercial vehicles and I applied for a DAF apprenticeship but no one got back to me. So when I saw the buses, I thought this is a good opportunity because I can better myself, and if I wanted to get into management I could do it. I went to Go-Ahead London as part of Shorterm Group’s IMI-accredited Bus Engineer Upskilling Programme and am nearly at the end of the year.

Where do you want your career to take you?

I want to do management in the future. Obviously I’m new here and still have lots to learn, but it’ll be good to continue learning and soak it all in. Then when the time is right, if there is a management role then I’ll apply. Hopefully the knowledge will be there. I’ll have to see what happens.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about automotive as a career?

If you’re thinking about it then it’s a good sign. From my experience, I’ve enjoyed it and I feel happy coming into work every day. So try it because you just never know.

Sheriffa Dawkins is an Upskilling Engineer at Shorterm Group working at Go-Ahead London

This is an edited version of the feature from IMI’s MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.

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