After Auburn resident Crystal Aube received her high school diploma, she spent time volunteering with AmeriCorps, and because of that, earned about $8,000 to be used toward furthering her education.

“I realized I had to do something with the money,” she conceded. At first, she took some automotive repair courses to become more aware of how to take care of her own car as well as vehicles belonging to friends and family. However, she discovered something about herself in the process.

“I enjoy fixing things, working with tools, measuring and figuring out how things work,” she said. “That kept me wanting to go back and learn more.”

She graduated from Central Maine Community College in 2006 with an associate’s degree in automotive technology and an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification. It took her a while to complete the program because she still had to work to support herself, “but I took as many classes as I could at night,” she recalled. “Eventually, I had to quit my job and finish up those (daytime) classes.”

Since graduation she has worked for VIP in Portland and for a discount tire company, and although her skills are top notch, her current job is an entry-level position at Rowe Auburn on Center Street. “If you want to move up in a company, you have to start there [entry level],” she said realistically. “This is an easy job for me to do.”

Automotive technicians must supply their own tools, and as a result invest a great deal of money in them. “Some kids (at school) could spend $4,000 on a good toolbox,” she said. “but I made a lot of smart purchases. After all, it just holds your tools, so I spent $750 on a used one.”

As one of the few women in her program at CMCC or in her field of work, Aube acknowledged she has encountered some skepticism from her male counterparts. “I’m an outspoken person, so I fit in with the guys OK,” she said. “When you walk in, they have their doubts, but I’m a hard worker, and they realized I put in 110 percent. I’m always digging for more knowledge and to make sure things are right.”

Aube says she sometimes wonders if she may be too much of a perfectionist to thrive in the automotive trade. “I like to take my time,” she explained, “and most shops pay you on how fast you work” rather than an hourly rate.

Each procedure is assigned an ideal amount of time for completion – called a “flat rate.” Technicians must accomplish these jobs within the timeframe specified (or sooner) in order to be paid the flat rate and then go on to another assignment. Taking longer gets the technician no additional money.

“If it’s a job you’ve done 15 times, then certainly you’re going to go faster, but if it’s a new procedure, for me, I want to make sure everything is absolutely right,” before handing back the vehicle.

It would seem Aube’s skills might be leading her in a slightly different direction. “My biggest goal is to teach other people the basics of understanding their vehicles,” she stressed. “I especially want this for women who are mostly surrounded by guys who feel women don’t care about such things and that it’s not something they can deal with.”

It most certainly is, Aube asserted. “I’ve benefited (from knowing how to fix vehicles), and I’ve saved my mom and sisters a lot of money. Anyone can do this if you have the tools and the knowledge.”

Aube is hoping to take this goal a step further by creating a way to help people better understand how their vehicles work, perhaps by creating informational videos geared toward helping women understand the basics of their vehicles – lights, gauges, tires, brakes, fluids and the like.

“I want to teach other women,” she said, adding, “I think (part of the problem is) that men have been running this show for a long time.” For her plan to succeed, she needs to find a business mentor and secure financial backing.

In the meantime, the automotive industry is always evolving, and Aube says she’s always learning. “School sets the stage for your basic understanding, but each make and model does its own thing, so you always have to refer back to the book. You can fix it as long as you have the specific tools some cars require. You need to find the information, and sometimes that’s the hard part, but I enjoy doing research.”

She is quick to recognize the contributions experienced mechanics and technicians have made in her life. “They’ve helped me out a lot, shown me some tricks of the trade and helped me pinpoint things you wouldn’t ordinarily consider would cause the problem,” she said.

Having her ASE certification and being females gets her through the door, she allowed. “I do stand out from the rest,” she said.

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