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Jennifer Eklund Women in Automotive Technology Automotive Tech Program

Women's Success Stories

Jennifer Eklund


Age 25, Caucasian
Student and Student Lane Technician
Employed by: Foundation for California Community Colleges

"They [the Evergreen teachers] take the time to spend with you to get something down. I've gotten stuck on some of the stuff. They're always around in the shop area, and they're always willing to talk to you after class or if you need help with anything. They're always walking around, explaining things or asking us questions to see if we understand what we're doing."

Career Quick Look
Salary: $10 per hour Education:
Years in Field: 6 months Evergreen Valley College
Has two classes remaining to complete both the Honda PACT (Professional Automotive Career Training) certification program and her A.S. degree in Automotive Technology Gavilan College, A.A. Degree in Business
City/State: Hollister, CA  

Getting Started: After high school, Jennifer Eklund enrolled at Gavilan College in Gilroy, and obtained her A.A. degree in business, working part-time in retail during this period. But she found that once she got into the economics, accounting and core business classes, she began to lose interest in this course of study. At about the same time, she was hanging out with friends who were interested in street and track racing, and who were always talking about cars. She found it quite interesting, and she wanted to learn more. Her boyfriend at the time taught her how to change her oil and fix the brakes on her own car. "He taught me a lot of stuff before I got into school. It grew on me pretty much," says Jennifer, who decided once she finished her A.A. degree in the spring of 2005 to change direction instead of continuing in business at San Jose State.

She enrolled in Automotive Technology at Evergreen Valley College in the fall of 2005. During school, she worked as a waitress on weekends, and last fall she obtained a job as a Student Lane Technician for a state-certified smog referee station that rents space at the college. There, she has been able to get hands-on experience in emissions-related issues, which has helped her prepare for the smog licensure test. "I really like it, I've learned a lot," says Jennifer.

Education: Jennifer believes the A.A. degree she completed in business will be helpful in the future. "It's a long shot, but it would be really cool to open up my own shop sometime in the future." She believes her business classes will really help. Currently, she is in her final semester to complete the American Honda Certificate Program offered by Evergreen Valley, and then has one additional class to take to fulfill the requirements for her A.S. degree. She found that the hands-on experience in fuel and emissions classes helped prepare her for her job at the smog referee station, where she deals with emission control devices.

She found the electrical track quite difficult, but she speaks highly of the teachers at Evergreen. "They take the time to spend with you to get something down. I've gotten stuck on some of the stuff. They're always around in the shop area, and they're always willing to talk to you after class or if you need help with anything. They're always walking around, explaining things or asking us questions to see if we understand what we're doing." She also finds that she has taught herself quite a bit while working by herself on a car. "Sometimes you're on your own, but it actually benefits you in a way, because you're trying to understand something and you're teaching yourself at the same time because you're not really asking somebody." Sometimes, she says, the teachers bug the cars so they don't run very well and expect the students to figure out what is wrong. On occasion she has stumbled across one of those bugs and has figured it out even though it was not really a part of that day's assignment. "One of the teachers, Brad Bergholdt, makes it very challenging, but you learn a whole lot from him."

Greatest Professional Achievement: Jennifer sees her greatest accomplishment as sticking with college for almost eight years and learning so much through the program at Evergreen College about cars and car repair.

Barriers: Jennifer found that she really struggled during some of the classes. Because she always attended school full-time, she had lots of classes at the same time, and some of them were quite difficult, especially the electrical track. She found that her friends and her teachers helped to get her through. “Everybody pretty much tries to help everybody else there, so you always have somebody else to ask if you don’t understand something,” she says.

Working with Men: At first, she was the only female in her automotive classes; later one or two more women joined the program. She is the only woman at her job at the smog referee station. She has many male friends who share her interest in cars and who have been quite supportive, but on occasion she runs into males with bad attitudes about women. "Some guys think just because you're female that you don't know as much, but in reality there's probably a good number of women who know a lot more than some of the men. Learn as much as you can," Jennifer advises women who find themselves in a mostly male environment. "Focus on what you're there for and get all the knowledge you can so when you get out in the field you can prove them wrong."

Advice for Women: "Don't be afraid to ask somebody for help, even if you are the only female," Jennifer advises women who are entering the program. She says she was quiet and scared at first before she got to know her fellow students. Once she got to know them she felt more comfortable asking for help.

Typical Workday/Environment: Jennifer works part-time at the smog station, which is located right on the campus. She holds down three shifts a week of just over three hours each. During each shift one car is scheduled per hour - some go quickly, others take more time. Work is performed both inside and outside of the garage. First, she takes a look at the outside of the car to check for pre-existing damage; if any is found, she reviews her findings and gets sign-off from the owner. Next she checks for safety issues, such as fuel leaks, engine oil, tire status, etc. She enters basic information into the computer, such as make, model, year, and mileage. Then she hooks the car up for automated tests, and does a visual inspection of emission devices, hoses, etc., to make sure things are connected properly and routed correctly. Cars made through 1995 receive an evaporative emission test. She also does functional tests and checks the timing. She makes sure all work is documented and indicates whether the car has passed or failed, then passes the information off to the smog license referee. The dress code is professional. She wears the required uniform of blue pants, either a white shirt or the school's blue uniform shirt with the Evergreen Valley College patch and her name. She wears comfortable shoes such as tennis shoes.

Career Ladder: Jennifer sees her career options along two tracks. One track would be to learn all she can and advance over time into more complex repair work and higher pay levels. She expects to obtain employment at a Honda dealership after she graduates - an Evergreen instructor, Dave Ames, helps students who complete the Honda certification find such placements. Some projects are paid by flat rate so experienced, faster workers can earn more with a flat rate pay scale. She has heard that these positions come with a full benefit package. A second track she's considering is to open up her own shop at some point in the future.

Professional Associations: Jennifer says she plans to join an automotive club which they are in the process of forming at Evergreen Valley, which will welcome all students and others interested in cars.

Hobbies: When she's not at school or working at one of her jobs, Jennifer enjoys hanging out with her friends, and sometimes working on her friends' cars. She also enjoys riding her friends' street bikes, and is looking for one to buy for herself.


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