The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) gathered in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on May 6 through May 8 for its 2019 Educational Conference.
A record-breaking number of 214 attendees navigated Tomorrow Together in honor of this year’s theme, led by outgoing chair, Michelle Sullivan, incoming chair, Cheryl Boswell, and event emcee, Liz Stein.
During Richard Flint’s “Navigating the Channels of Life and Business,” attendees were encouraged to be better, smarter and stronger. Flint shared, “Navigating is all about direction. It’s about a mindset and adapting. Most people don’t have a purpose, and without a purpose, you don’t have a direction. Without a direction, you don’t have a journey.”
Jessica Eckstrom, founder of Headbands of Hope, spoke on how optimism creates a better reality in “Making Our Internal Dialogue Our Biggest Cheerleader.” She said, “Everyone who has ever done something great had to believe they could be the one to do it. Everyone had to start somewhere. Why not here and why not you? Success doesn’t mean you have it all figured out, but it means you’re confident you’ll get there.”
As she shared her challenges and triumphs, Eckstrom insisted, “We don’t fail because of a lack of resources; we fail due to a lack of resourcefulness. There will always be another way if you believe in it and want it badly enough. Failures aren’t reflections of worth; they’re reflections of growth, and failure will always feel better than regret. Achievements aren’t our final destination and they don’t measure success, because success is not what it looks like to others—it’s what it feels like to you!”
Debbie Day, general manager of Auto Physical Damage (APD) business unit at Mitchell International, gazed toward tomorrow with an industry update on the challenges of connected cars, OE repair procedures and artificial intelligence. “This industry is different than it’s ever been,” she pointed out. “The women in this industry have the talents and skills that are desperately needed to face and overcome these challenges.”
During “Integrating Our Past to Transcend Our Future,” Roger Wright of Vector Squared shared the results of interviews he conducted with eight insurers on behalf of AkzoNobel. Their largest concerns included: OEMs’ involvement in the collision repair process, a lack of qualified insurance reps and repair techs, as well as increased severity and total losses.
UTI’s Keith Schieffer discussed “Opportunities for the Next Generation,” emphasizing the importance of training from a credible source and following OEM repair procedures. “Knowledge is power. We need to research every vehicle we repair, no matter how minor the damage appears,” Schieffer said. “We have to be able to duplicate what the engineer intended or we can’t defend the repair. Make sure you learn how to do the type of repairs that need to be done. Learning is a lifelong process.”
In “The Time Is Now for WIN,” Darren Huggins of Berkshire Hathaway Automotive and G.B. Outlaw, brought attendees together to link arms and form an unbreakable bond. Outlaw said, “An open mindset is how you grow. A positive mind finds a way it can be done, while a negative mind looks for all the ways it can’t be done. As a leader, your role is to inspire your teammates to become better each day. Whenever you walk through a door of opportunity, you need to have the mindset that you’re a difference maker.”
Huggins added, “Leaders have to set the tone every day to experience the thrill of achieving spectacular results. You’re either making excuses or making progress—you can’t do both!”
Keynote speaker Connie Dieken reinforced the idea of WIN members coming together to “Change Minds in Changing Times in a Male-Dominated Industry.” Dieken encouraged attendees to learn how to identify ways to gain influence and confidence. Furthermore, she taught attendees to connect, convey and convince, sharing a multitude of tips and tricks on influencing others.
“Why be persuasive when you can be influential?” asked Dieken, “Influencers don’t just play the game; they change the game and shape the future by leading significant, lasting change. Make your boldest contribution to the world.”
“Women in Collision Repair” came together for a panel discussion with multiple segments of the industry represented. Moderated by Laura Gay, the panel consisted of Laura Ann Kottschade from Jerry’s ABRA Auto Body and Glass, BASF’s Trista Anger, Girl Behind the Gun Connie Manjavinos, Collision Hub’s Kristen Felder, and Madison Ervin, a fabricator at Kiddy’s Classics.
Ervin recalled, “I was told in high school that I shouldn’t take an automotive technology class because I was a girl. I would have loved for this opportunity to be there for me in high school,” she said.
Kottschade said, “I can’t imagine pursuing any other career. This isn’t just a man’s world—it’s for women too!”
When asked how being women has hindered their careers, Anger said, “I’ve taken stereotypical hindrances and turned them into opportunities.”
Manjavinos added, “Don’t let anyone hinder you! Just move forward and do [the career] you want. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”
“People will make positive and negative assumptions about you because you’re a woman, but I enjoy when people underestimate me,” Felder laughed. “When they don’t count you in, you can do whatever you want and go as far as you want to go. Their assumption that I wasn’t worthy inspired me to gain as much knowledge as possible. Now, I’ll tell you what I bring to the table–I bring the whole damn table!”
During the 2019 Educational Conference’s, Boswell said her closing remarks, encouraging more women to join WIN and the industry as a whole. WIN continues to grow each year; seven new board members have been added to the organization this year. “Relationships are built in circles, not rows,” she said.
WIN’s 2020 Educational Conference will be held at Newport Beach, CA on Sunday, May 3 through Tuesday, May 5, 2020. For more information on WIN and future events, visit womensindustrynetwork.com.