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Career Quick Look
Salary: $33,780* Education:
Years in Field: 25 A.S. in Automotive Technology, Bachelor's in Vocational Education
City/State: Sacramento, CA View Dara Dubois's Resume

"Just being a woman in the field, you spend a lot of time working to prove yourself," Dara says. "I always like the first day of class when students walk in and say 'Are you our teacher?" And I tell them, 'Yes, if you stay.'"

Getting Started: Dara was in her teens when her family moved to Sacramento, and she became the first girl in the school district to take auto shop. "I was dissuaded at first," she recalls. "People said, 'you shouldn't do that, you'll get dirty.'" She knew that she enjoyed working with cars, but after school she was persuaded to "put it aside." Dara worked in retail for a few years, but eventually returned to her first love, automobiles, when a friend opened a repair shop and offered her a job.

Education: "I didn't go to college right after high school," Dara says, "because it just wasn't what I wanted to do then." Not satisfied with her retail employment, she found herself looking for a change in careers. "I was a single parent and needed to earn more money," she says. Dara went to work at her friend's repair shop, and eventually moved on to the state Bureau of Auto Repair.

"In order to get a promotion," she says, "I needed a certificate in automotive technology." So she enrolled at American River College for a two-year associate's degree. By the time she had earned the associate's, Dara was already enrolled in a bachelor's program at California State University at Sacramento. "One of the things I've wanted to do is work with the automotive manufacturers setting up programs at different schools, and in order to work at the corporate level, you have to have a bachelor's degree." Dara continued to work full time while earning her Bachelor's in Vocational Education, which enables her to teach automotive technology at American River College, in addition to her work at the Energy Commission.

Greatest Professional Achievement: "My most significant accomplishment has been getting my bachelor's degree," Dara says - which was no easy feat while working full time and teaching part time. It was seven years in the making, but Dara says the degree has opened many doors for her within in the field. "Since that time I've been offered a couple of jobs with Toyota and other places," she says. "It's nice to find out that I have marketable skills that people want."

Barriers: "A lot of people place importance on what your degree is," she says, "and up until getting it last year that was a tough one, because I felt my experience didn't count for as much without it."

No matter what level she was working at, Dara tried to stay open to what she might learn - to ask questions, and demonstrate her interest in finding out more. "Take every experience as a learning opportunity," she advises. "Try to learn from other people, and use these lessons in your own career."

Working with Men: For most of Dara's career she's been working with men. She remembers an instructor in her automotive technology course who once handed the torque wrench to a male student beside her, to complete a project she was working on. "I had to remind him, 'Hey, that's my work," she said. "Sometimes you have to stand up and be confident."

Advice for Women: "Don't give in and don't give up," Dara says. "Pursue your dreams." She says that how you present yourself at work will go a long way in determining how you are treated. "Act in a professional manner," she says, and be confident: "Show them what you know."

And if you're having a problem, Dara says, don't be afraid to ask questions. "It shows that you're serious, and you want to know more."

Typical Workday/Environment: "Here at the Energy Commission," Dara says, "I work with alternate fuel vehicles. I work with light duty vehicles, school buses and heavy duty trucks."

Career Ladder: "The career ladder in this field can be what you want it to be," Dara says. Typically people think of technicians and service writers when they think of automotive jobs, but she says "they forget about the other positions and management opportunities that are out there." Regardless of your ultimate goal, she says for most car manufacturers these days, having a bachelor's degree is important.

For those with an interest in electronics, auto diagnostics can be a great way to go. "Take the time to actually learn what makes things work," she says. "There's a lot of money to be made in diagnostics."

At the moment, Dara says, "there is a tremendous shortage of technicians in the field. The average age is about 45 for mechanics." And the demand for qualified workers is sure to remain. "We're so dependent on our vehicles," she says.

Professional Associations: Dara is a member of the Service Technicians Society, the Association for Career and Technology Education, the California Industrial and Technology Educational Association, Epsilon Pi Tau (teacher's organization), the National Association of Fleet Administrators, and SkillsUSA-VICA.

Hobbies: In keeping with her love of automobiles, Dara says she likes to watch stock car races in her off time. She also enjoys dancing, along with sports like softball, volleyball, and golf. "I like doing crafts and blowing bubbles," she laughs. "It helps release stress."

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Automotive Technician based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition


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