When Tammy Tecklenburg joined the automotive aftermarket 23 years ago, women represented just 2 percent of the workforce.
No surprise, finding direct female role models proved difficult—impossible, even.
Although female representation improved throughout the years, it was still an issue that Tecklenburg held near and dear to her heart.
“It hit me one day that it was my duty to be the person I needed when I was younger,” Tecklenburg, now the president of Women in Auto Care, says.
Eight years ago, she took the next step to be that person, when she joined the Car Care Council Women’s Board (now Women in Auto Care) to network with other women in the aftermarket, and learn more about the industry as a whole.
Tecklenburg was relieved to find it finally provided the community she had been looking for all those years, and she was determined to foster that community.
She joined the executive board in 2014 to lend her professional experience to support the growth, mission and rebranding of the organization. Later that year, she led the Membership Committee in launching a mentor program and encouraging her peers to join her mission of developing the next generation.
One of those mentees was RepairPal’s vice president of industry advocacy and sales, Jill Trotta, who met Tecklenburg soon after the program started and is one of the people who nominated her for this year’s Wild Card Award.
Trotta had just transitioned into a corporate environment at RepairPal after working in shops and dealerships for years, and she was looking for someone to help guide her through that transition.
Naturally, Trotta says, Tecklenburg seemed like a perfect fit. She saw her as extremely accomplished, but assumed that someone in her position as vice president of global sales and marketing operations with Spectrum Brands-Global Auto Care was likely too busy to take on a mentee.
Still, she cold-called Tecklenburg for advice and Tecklenburg’s giving and kind personality quickly dissipated Trotta’s initial intimidation.
“When I actually talked to her, she just fostered an environment where women can talk to women who have been very successful,” Trotta says.
That call kicked off a relationship that has continued to blossom throughout the last four years.
“She guided me through the integration of that, and how to advocate for myself in that environment,” Trotta says. “It resulted in my first pay raises, and, ultimately, my promotion to director from being an associate.”
Trotta says she’s a part of a handful of women directly mentored by Tecklenburg. Additionally, Trotta says that even outside of Tecklenburg’s busy schedule, she’s always willing to help mentor women in the aftermarket when they’re trying to get a promotion, negotiating a pay raise, or simply navigating their career in the automotive aftermarket.
“People find me through my volunteer position,” Tecklenburg says. “If I can’t help somebody, I’ll try to find somebody who can find a solution.”
With the success of Trotta and many other women, the program took off quickly, and in 2015, Tecklenburg was recognized with the Auto Care Woman of the Year award from the Car Care Council Women’s Board, with then-president Amy Mattinat, president of Auto Craftsmen in Montpelier, Vt., praising the program, and the value it brought to Women in Auto Care.
In November 2016, Tecklenburg began her own three-year term as president of the group.
While she says it’s thanks to the work of her ambitious board of directors, Women in Auto Care has ramped up its scholarship efforts to get more female technicians entering the aftermarket since Tecklenburg came on as president. Since 2004, she says the organization has given out $358,000 in scholarships to high school and post-secondary female students, of which 70 percent has been awarded during Tecklenburg’s presidency.
Once these women enter the industry, Tecklenburg knows how vital it is for them to be mentored to help them grow professionally and reduce the dropout rate. This means taking technician students under the organization’s wing, and bringing them to the Women in Auto Care’s two annual conferences to network and find potential job opportunities.
These efforts have paid major dividends for the organization—Women in Auto Care has now grown to 300-plus members, and in June partnered with the Automotive Industries Association of Canada to host its first joint North American conference.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to connect women from around the world,” Tecklenburg says. “Women from all aspects of the aftermarket, from technicians, shop owners, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, consultants and industry associations are engaging to elevate, educate and celebrate each other while collaborating to move our industry forward.”
Tecklenburg says women now represent 26.7 percent of the industry, a far cry from the 2 percent figure she faced when starting out. Trotta says Tecklenburg’s leadership has given women what she lacked at the beginning of her career—an environment where women can come together to share and support one another.
“She’s fostered an environment where everybody sits down, and everybody has a place at the table, from a service advisor in a shop, all the way to a vice president from Spectrum Brands,” Trotta says. “The entire aftermarket is sitting down for this conversation.”