Learning the auto industry from the ground up

May 2, 2023
Auto technician Chiquita Downs is all in on achieving her big goals in the industry.

PTEN and Motor Age magazines have teamed up with TechForce Foundation to help spotlight some amazing women in the automotive industry in hopes we can inspire more individuals to pursue careers as automotive technicians.

Just three years in, and Chiquita Downs already has big goals. With her confidence and willingness to learn, there is no doubt she won’t achieve them. It’s just a matter of time.

Growing up, Downs never had experience working on cars. However, she was always interested and intrigued by them. It wasn’t until she took a job at Carquest as a delivery parts driver when she realized her passion for cars could turn into a career. So she started to learn about the different parts and would ask technicians at the shops she visited questions.

One technician took note in her interest and told her that if she wanted to be a technician herself, then she should do it.

As Downs recalls, he told her, “Nobody is going to stop you from doing what you want to do; if you want it, you got to get it.”

And so, she went for it.

Now, Downs is currently working at Firestone Complete Auto Care and still enjoys learning new things, but now from the technician side.

“The more I learn, the more I’m excited,” she says. “I love the thrill and adrenaline of learning cars.”

Inspiring other women

Being a woman in a male-dominated line of work can be daunting for some. Check out what Downs has to say about her experience and advice for other women looking to enter the industry.

What is it like being a woman in the automotive industry?

The way I see it, if a man can do it then a woman can do it. It’s all about respect and getting along with your coworkers. Respect is earned, not given. If you respect me, I’ll respect you. Females may be scared to enter the industry, but guys will actually help you. The guys I work with are cool and help me.

What is the best advice you’ve received for this career?

The best advice I received was that don’t let someone stop you from doing what you want to do in this industry. You can only be yourself. Don’t change who you are because you’re around men in the industry. Be who you are. If they don’t like you, then oh well. They will get over it.

What would you tell other women looking to enter this field?

Go for it. Don’t be scared. I had a lot of opportunities to stop because I was scared, but you just got to do it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. Don’t second guess yourself. Even if you do it and don’t like it, at least you tried it.

Career aspirations

So, what is Downs’ big dream? Well, she has two. One is to own her own shop one day. And the other is to build a car, specifically a '95 or '96 Impala SS using modern parts.

It wasn’t until she played a video game, Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition, with her nephew that she discovered how much she liked the car.

“I loved the way it looked and sounded,” she says. “I like how it is built. I also follow some people on Instagram who have built an SS Impala and love how they look. I love the way the car roars. I get chills through my bones.”

As for her own shop, she says it would be a maintenance shop and offer services such as oil changes, tire rotations, alignments, lighting, brake repairs, and so on.

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