Introducing Sarah Weller and her journey to an automotive career
By looking at me, you're likely to think that my husband is the mechanic, not me. We, as females, are often ridiculed if seen doing a 'man's job' – that we’re not capable enough or strong enough, but that couldn't be further from the truth!
I am Sarah Weller, a 30-something-year-old Vehicle Maintenance Specialist and Consultant at UK Truck and Plant Group in Bedford. UK Truck was born and raised within my own hands, with the help of my husband and the incredible team we have here.
While we have a talented and diverse range of people working for us, I am the only female mechanic, and I love nothing more than fixing up a trailer or MOT testing an HGV.
My journey started in 2004 as a newly-qualified Transport Manager – part of a new strain of legally qualified transport managers.
As a young female, I found that with no experience, most companies wouldn’t employ me, so I ended up working for small businesses that had a different approach to running lorries – cutting corners and not maintaining the vehicles properly.
I figured it was time to change that and started to train in mechanical works, enabling me to understand vehicle problems and fix them myself, making them safe for the road. It helped my employers lower their maintenance costs and deliver uptime while ensuring vehicles were being maintained legally.
After that, I started working with operators who weren’t legally compliant, representing them at public inquiries for maintenance issues while I qualified as an HGV inspector and mechanic.
Joining a male dominated industry
Trying to get my foot in the door in an industry where men were the majority was pretty daunting. Many employers questioned my ability during interviews, not entirely convinced a woman could cope in the role or do the job correctly. My first interview, whilst in the waiting room, I even got told by a passing driver that I was wasting my time applying!
Even in my training, I was the only female – but it didn’t put me off. Once people realised that I was capable of doing the job and saw how willing and enthusiastic I was, they became much more respectful and encouraging. I hope that in recent years people have become even more open-minded.
I wanted to push myself even further. Being around the automotive industry fuelled my passion and encouraged me to gain further qualifications. I am an IRTEC-qualified HGV and bus mechanic and a qualified transport manager, and just last year, I trained and achieved qualifications allowing me to MOT test cars and vans, in addition to HGVs.
It’s worth mentioning I did that after welcoming my first baby just months before, proving that women can do anything they set their minds to. I also hold accounting qualifications to help run my business − because I clearly don’t like being bored!
But on a serious note, I hope that more young females realise their potential and just go for what they aspire to do. There are no limitations to someone’s potential and talent, especially not due to gender.
If anyone asked me what my dream job would be, this would be it. I love working at UK Truck & Plant Group and couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Each day is different. Some are crazy busy and hectic, with time flying by; other days may be a little calmer, with a pile of paperwork to do. Giving people their vehicles back in working order and safe on the road is a great way to earn a living (and helps them earn theirs, too).
Last year, we took on a contract covering ambulances across the East of England, in charge of repairs and breakdown callouts. The contract was a real turning point for us and encouraged us to ensure an all-hands-on-deck approach, making sure we were helping to make a difference in frontline support and uptime.
Knowing that we’re doing our bit in supporting them brings us a tremendous sense of satisfaction. After all, we were picked from a selection of the best maintenance providers, which shows the level of our talent. We would never have guessed this level of opportunity was achievable, having started the company from the back of a van!
If I could shed some wisdom and advice to aspiring automotive individuals, it would be to absolutely go for it. You don’t know what you’re capable of unless you try, and you might surprise yourself at what you enjoy or are good at.
You should never think you won’t succeed just because you’re female. Being involved in male-dominated environments forces them to work with you and learn respect, not judging your capabilities based on gender or appearance. Make history by proving yourself worthy and proving that females shouldn’t be shoved into boxes and labelled.
The fact UK Truck has a range of employees from 19 to 63 years old shows that nothing is out of reach and every single one of us brings something to the table.
3 tips you’d give to aspiring automotive professionals
1 - Don’t live in fear of what others might think of you
2 - Allow yourself to fail – it helps to learn from mistakes and is only a part of the journey
3 - Don’t do anything for others. Always do it for yourself