A Woman in a Man’s World

Photo: Carin Chiam believes that the automotive industry can be a good career choice for today's women who are competitive and up for challenges.

Photo: Carin Chiam believes that the automotive industry can be a good career choice for today's women who are competitive and up for challenges.

She was the typical type of girly girl with long hair, a sweet smile, soft voice besides a love for pretty pastel colors, jewelry, skirts and dresses. Knowing her, one would rank city girl Carin Chiam to be the last among any of her peers to venture in an industry dominated by men. To get a clearer picture of why she embarked on an automotive education, we had a little chat with the petite 18-year old who is currently doing her first year in The Otomotif College (TOC).

Q:    Describe your childhood in contrast with who you have become today. Did you like cars back then?

A:    Frankly speaking, I was a shy girl when I was young and my favorite times were playing dressing and make-up. I didn’t touch any cars in my childhood but I was a great fan of Barbies. Being the youngest child in the family, I have an elder brother and sister but though I played with both of them, I was not really influenced by my brother nor his choice of toys.     

Q:    There is a common misconception that cars only interest men. What made you decide to take up an automotive education? How did your parents react towards your decision?

A:  Actually both my parents are working in the automotive industry under Proton. It was my mum who encouraged me to further my studies in this particular field as she saw the potential in the growing car market. I had other plans in mind and was initially planning to take culinary arts as I loved cooking.

However, mum told me about the many job opportunities in the car industry for women and how women are making great strides in the automotive industry. You see, a decade ago employment in the automotive field was always considered physically taxing and dirty. But today’s cars are different and require more problem solving skills and intellectual ability to fix them instead of muscle. With the advancement in technology and electronics, a new generation of professionals are required. Professionals rely more on understanding and communication skills to succeed in this field. I decided to take her advice and give it a go.       

Q:         How did you find out about TOC? What attracted you to start your education here?

A:  It was my mum again who saw an advertisement in the newspapers. We were quite impressed

by the facilities offered by the college and the fact that the founder of TOC was a woman herself! Madam Adelaine Foo devoted her time to upgrade the standards, skills and knowledge of the people working in the automotive industry. Her goal was to promote and furnish formal and fundamental education for existing and new talents to take pride in developing a career in the growing automotive industry.

Q:    How do you feel being the odd one out in your class? Were you scared or intimidated? How did you get along with your classmates and trainers?

A:  To be honest, I didn’t really feel odd or isolated. Perhaps it’s because I’m from a coed school and am used to mixing around with both sexes. Sure, I get a little bit of teasing from time to time, but it’s acceptable and I think I get along with everyone quite well. Truth be said, I used to be a little shy of asking questions at the initial stage, but I gained confidence when I found that all the trainers were really friendly, down-to-earth and helpful. And no, I was never stereotyped because I was different.

Q:    Were you afraid to get your hands dirty? Was the practical work demanding for you? Describe your greatest challenge so far.

A:  No. I was really more excited than afraid of anything. Having no background in handling cars of any sort, I was a little doubtful of my ability to catch up with the rest of my fellow classmates. Nevertheless, I found out later that the tasks could be handled easily and I was more confident after that. In fact, I love practical work more than the theory classes because it’s so interesting! It’s also very motivating when you get it right! And, you get a more realistic understanding of the subject compared to just learning by listening and watching.

So far the only glitch is that I’m slightly smaller in comparison with the boys and therefore am not able to do certain heavy lifting in terms of transmission, gear box and so on. But my group members help me out so I’m doing fine.  

Q:   What would be your favorite subject throughout your studies so far in TOC?

A:    That would definitely be the first subject I took during my first semester – which is Engine Mechanical. It marked the first time I got to do anything with cars but I felt immediately connected to vehicles after the first few practical sessions! It’s an indescribable feeling which I think only those keen on cars can understand. The more I studied about the internal mechanisms inside cars, the more I got attracted to the subject and grew to like it. I guess that’s what led to the passion I have towards cars now. 

Q:    Do you believe that women have a place in the automotive industry? What kind of career pathway are you looking forward to?

A:  I believe that girls can do what guys can. Of course we have to strike a balance. It is often believed that women are better in communication skills and men in physical jobs. So it’s a give and take thing which requires team work to excel in every aspect. Given that, there is no reason why female automotive graduates cannot be just as successful as, or even more successful than guys out there. There are so many career opportunities out there for women and we don’t have to limit ourselves to the level of mechanics and technicians only. We can be service advisors, diagnostics component specialists, collision estimators, parts executives and so much more! There are also other areas we can involve ourselves in such as design, engineering, technology, marketing, sales and even research and development. Choices are unlimited if we only have the interest and drive to shine. As for myself, I aspire to open my own modern workshop one day with a team of specialists also dedicated towards serving the public in their vehicle needs. 

Thank you very much for your time. We wish you all the best in your studies and hope you enjoy your time in TOC.


Photo: Who says girls cannot have a place in the automotive industry Chiam, 18, steps up to prove them wrong.

Photo: Who says girls cannot have a place in the automotive industry Chiam, 18, steps up to prove them wrong.