Industry phenom Bogi Lateiner looks to change attitudes a full 180 degrees
Just call her Bogi. Born Sarah Lateiner in Flushing, Queens, she’s a master technician, management trainer, owner of 180 Degrees Automotive in Phoenix, host of Velocity TV’s “All Girl Garage” and a passionate supporter of women in the automotive world. She’s also rebuilding a ’57 Chevy Truck to be unveiled at SEMA 2017 as the Chevy Montage, a celebration of women in the industry. The always-busy Lateiner took time away from her schedule to speak to GM Repair Insights.
How did your career begin?
I signed up for auto shop when I was in high school because I owned a VW Beetle that I loved, but that was a piece of junk that kept breaking down. I hated the way I was treated when I took it to a shop. I was lucky to work with some amazing mentors and eventually rebuilt the car from the ground up. Back then, I didn’t think it would turn out as a career.You went on to graduate from Oberlin College with degrees in Pre-Law and Women’s Studies and were preparing for law school. What convinced you then to go into the industry?
I discovered I really missed working with my hands and the satisfaction of building something. I got this idea to be a mechanic. I moved out to Arizona and went to UTI and went on to work as a BMW tech for about six years.
How did you transition to shop owner?
I loved being a tech but missed customer interaction. I also had this idea about teaching women about their cars and teaching people in general. I loved seeing the light bulb going off in their heads when they discover how something works. I wanted to create a business where people would feel comfortable, where we’d teach car care classes and where no one felt like I did when I was 16 and bringing a car in for service.
I also wanted to give women an opportunity to gain experience to work in the industry. When I got out of school, I had a tough time finding work and didn’t want others going through the same experience so I decided to build my own business where I could hire, train and raise up women.
There are lots of opportunities and some phenomenal career paths. I would also tell them that if this is what they want, don’t let anyone else dictate your dreams and what you can and can’t do. Also, find your allies. Find the people who support you. Lock out the naysayers. Use them to fuel your fire.
Are there many female techs looking for work? Considering the shortage of quality techs in the industry, what can shops do to hire them?
There are a lot of female tech students and techs wanting work. I never have trouble filling my apprentice positions. As for the industry, we’re in dire need of technicians. We’re also seeing auto repair programs shut down. Yet I speak to women all the time who can’t find jobs or who left the industry because no one would give them a chance.
To fix this, we need to find better ways to attract people. We need to change our reputation to draw in more people in general. We need to create work environments that are safer, better lit and cleaner. Both men and women will appreciate that.
We also need to be more willing to train and take on apprentices. The industry has to stop simply trying to bring in the person who has 20 years of experience and instead take on the person with the desire, the right mindset and the drive to succeed and make them the next great tech.
Building on this subject, female customers frequently report feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable because they sense operating at a disadvantage when they’re at a shop. What can repairers do to make their experiences better?
Any time you work in an industry heavy on technical jargon, you run the risk of people feeling taken advantage of even when they’re not. It’s on us to take the time with customers, to look them in the eye and explain things in layman’s terms. I tell my service advisors, “Don’t assume customers know everything, but also don’t assume they know nothing.”
If they need a new CV boot, you ask them if they’d like to know more about the part. It’s really about slowing things down, getting into a relationship and treating each person as an individual and a valuable customer.
You’re using your weekends to help educate these customers as well, correct?
Yes! Usually every month we offer a three-hour Women’s Car Care class on a Saturday. We talk about how to select a good shop, interacting with a repair shop and asking the right questions. We teach how to change a tire, jump start a battery and check fluids. We go over how the car systems work. It’s designed to be as hands-on as possible.
Where did the idea come from for the Chevy Montage project and what does it involve?
It’s my own crazy brainchild, not connected to the shop or the TV program. I wanted to restore a ’57 truck and pair it with a BMW engine. It grew from there. The idea is to shine a light on the amazing women in the industry and celebrate their contributions that often are overlooked. We also wanted to create an opportunity for women not in the profession, so there are a lot of women working on the project who’ve never turned a wrench. We want women to try this work on for size. We have experts and newbies involved—more than 30 women right now, and we should have over 70 involved by the end of the project.
One of the great things coming out of this effort is the community we’re forming. A lot of women in the industry feel isolated because they don’t meet other women like themselves. It’s been a powerful experience watching them come together and connect.
Now the entire industry can take part in this celebration. An online vote to decide the color of the Montage — Dark Teal, Dark Purple or Sky Blue — is available at www.refinish.basf.us/montage. Make your selection and help recognize the contributions of women who do their part to make the auto service industry better every day.
Category: Industry News