Chaya M Milchtein
How did you get involved with automotive repair?
I was aging out of foster care I couldn't for the life of me find a job. Let me tell you, I tried. I applied for all the minimum wage jobs even though I couldn't figure out how I was going to pay the bills on that kind of income alone. After starting a small Go Fund Me, I raised about $2000 (an amount I thought was enormous at the time) but most importantly, I was contacted by an incredible woman whose name was Faith Kohler. She vetted me first, don't get me wrong, then took me to lunch. Faith told me that she knew someone that could get me an interview and help me get a job at Sears in Milwaukee. During my interview, I was asked what department I wanted to work in, I thought pretty hard about it, couldn't figure out a department where I would be happy, I just said, "whichever one makes the most money."
The rest is my story. I worked hard. I believed in myself. Most importantly I surrounded myself with people who believed in me.
You definitely have a niche in the education market what kind of classes do you teach and why?
My work in automotive led to loads and loads of questions in my inbox from people all over the country wondering about topics like what to look for when they are buying a used car or when they really should do an oil change. A few people asked me to hold classes, they said women and queer folks would be really interested. I thought about it for a little while. I decided I could share my knowledge with people and simultaneously use the money to support my other work like my blog which offers an immense amount of information as no charge to everyone.
So far I've taught classes on how to buy a used car, maintenence 101 and car insurance fundamentals. In the next few months I intend to teach a class on buying or leasing a new car, buying and maintaining tires and several more.
What makes you the happiest about the position you are in?
Currently, I manage a service center for Pep Boys which I find challenging and rewarding. Leading a team and being part of one is something that brings me great joy and peace. For Mechanic Shop Femme - when I receive messages from people who appreciate the work that I do, or get referrals from strangers to educate their friends and family my soul lights up.
What is your daily mantra?
I get up today because my work will help others.
If you could create a color, what would it look like and what would you call it?
If would probably be a bright fun color, likely a shade of purple.
What kind of advice would you give for anyone looking to explore a non-traditional job?
I wouldn't call my job non traditional. People have through out history worked with their hands. If you want to work in the automotive industry, I suggest you start in a place like Sears, Pep Boys, Firestone and the like. A large corporation has the ability to offer the training necessary to get you going on a career path that is highly in demand.
If you could have the perfect automobile, what would it be? Describe it?
I would be a truck with the luxury of a Lexus. Leather comfy seats. Powerful motor. It would be red with black interior.
What would be your tidbits of wisdom to those who are interested in buying their first automobile? Is there a checklist?
It's hard to put this into a few sentences, but my number one piece of advise to all my students is as follows. Be sure to test drive the car a minimum of 15 minutes, alternating highway and regular street driving. Make mental notes of what you hear or feel. Then take the car to a mechanic. No exceptions. Let the mechanic know what you heard and felt before they begin checking the vehicle over. The biggest mistake my customers and students make is not taking the car to a mechanic. Most major problems are easily found during a proper inspection. I teach a class every few months on buying a used car and plan on teaching a class next month on buying or leasing a new car. If you want a clear outline and understanding on how to buy a car, this is the class for you.
Finally, describe the future for which you are preparing your workplace for and where do you believe your industry is going for women. How long do you think it is going to take us to get there?
Oh this is a tough question. I don't think I'm preparing my industry for women, rather I am preparing women and queer folks for the industry. I guess I am of the camp that I have more of an impact being me and educating and changing my community, my city, my circle etc. I think it will take many years to include women in a real way in the workplace.
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