The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
A LOVE OF DRIVING TRANSLATES INTO A DREAM JOB
Whether it’s taking new cars to an auto show, or million-dollar classics across the country, Diana Niedzwiedzki can handle it. She’s an auto-hauler driver for Mackie Transportation in Oshawa, Ont., and has been driving big trucks for 18 years.
“I load the cars into the double-decker truck, strap them down and secure them, and get them from Point A to Point B,” she said. “It can be brand-new Teslas or a 1950 Chevy pickup I took from California to Chatham [Ont.].”
Niedzwiedzki earned a degree in education and psychology in university, but being a teacher didn’t appeal to her. She loved driving more than working in an office, and when an application as a subway driver didn’t work out, “I thought, why don’t I drive a truck? The size of the vehicle doesn’t intimidate me. I paid $4,000 to go to driving school, and on Christmas Eve I went with five other guys for the test, and I was the only one that passed. It was the best Christmas present ever.”
Few companies accept inexperienced drivers, but Schneider Transportation hired and trained Niedzwiedzki. She eventually bought her own truck, which she ran for five years until a pickup in West Virginia crossed the road and hit her, forcing the writeoff off her Kenworth.
After spending some time driving a flatbed and a tow truck, she saw that Mackie was hiring and joined in 2010.
“There were issues with being female in this job, but it has its perks, when you pull up and they see it’s a woman unloading the cars. Auto hauling is the cream of the crop and I feel like I’m the elite. At Mackie, the people in this division are just so easy to get along with. It really isn’t fair to call it work.”
LEARNING IN THE FIELD TO HELP CUSTOMERS IN THE OFFICE
Specialized tires require specialized knowledge, and Leroy Burkhart brings that to the job. At OK Tire in Elmira, Ont., he handles almost everything related to commercial and off-the-road (OTR) tires.
“I do all the sales, the inventory purchasing, and recommendations for customer vehicles. I also look after fleet service programs, cost-per-mile analysis and operating costs, retreading programs and dispatch for breakdowns.”
Burkhart was a beef farmer, but agriculture’s financial insecurity led him to look for other work. During a visit to his local OK Tire store, he asked the owner for his opinion about an opening at another OK Tire outlet.
“He said, ‘If you’re looking for a job, I’m actually hiring too.’”
Burkhart was trained as a passenger-tire technician, then switched to a commercial-tire service truck.
“It’s important to get firsthand knowledge to see what the real world is like before you go into sales,” he said. “You get to know the issues with products or performance. I was offered the sales position as our company grew, and seven years ago I took that role.
“The product range in each division is too much for one person to know everything, so you either have to focus on passenger or commercial,” he said.
He learned by shadowing the store’s owner with customers and tire manufacturers, and took part in every training program he could.
“I’m good at it because I love it. The only way you can be good at this job is by putting your time in on the ground, in the customers’ fleets, in the office researching products. The difference between average and standout is how much you’re willing to put into it. There’s a lot that’s overlooked in the commercial-tire industry, and a lot of fleets could benefit from having better tire programs.”
COLLECTING THE CASH ON NO-CHARGE REPAIRS
When customers receive repair orders that read, “Warranty, No Charge,” Miguela Sapa’s work has just begun. As the warranty clerk at Boundary Hyundai in Vancouver, where she has been since 2015, it’s her job to ensure that everything’s in order for quick reimbursement from the automaker for the claim.
“People think there’s no money in warranty because nothing’s being paid up front, but it’s very important,” she said. “I have to check the work order and if there are warranty lines, I have to enter the part numbers and labour cod on Hyundai Canada’s warranty website. For bigger jobs, I have to submit a pre-warranty approval as well.”
Sapa graduated university with a business degree in the Philippines and worked in the banking industry. In 2006, she came to Canada and worked as a caregiver. After getting permanent-residency status, she worked as a credit analyst. When her position was eliminated due to downsizing, she got a job as an appointment coordinator at a Hyundai dealership.
That store eventually closed, but when an assistant service manager there lande at the newly opened Bounda Hyundai, he recommended that Sapa also be hired.
“My day starts with check ing voicemails for appointments, doing clerical work and paperwork, and greeting customers when they come in,” she said. “I was initially trained for a service-adviser position, and I sometimes sti do that when it’s needed. But we now have enough custom ers to keep me busy with warranty and appointments.”
Thanks to co-workers who helped her with technical information, Sapa now has t automotive knowledge to process repairs quickly and accurately.
“I didn’t know anything about cars, and now I can change my own cabin filter because I always saw the recommendations, and a technician showed me how. They’r very patient with explaining to me.”