“There's so much to being a female in this industry,” Missy “Diesel Girl” Albin noted when talking about women and their role in fleet. “I’m here to fix trucks for other people, but I'm also here for self-improvement, self-education. It makes me feel really good when something tries to defeat me and I can overcome it or when I can go to something and fix it. It's just such a great feeling.”
Albin, as her nickname implies, is a diesel tech. She is one of those “been there, done that” people who, despite having a remarkable fleet resume, is still working to make breakthroughs for anyone who wants to find their place in the industry. As for Albin’s own journey into the world of fleet? That path began when she was a child figuring out the world around her.
Adopted at a young age, Albin spent most of her youth not knowing much about her biological parents and working through questions that she didn’t have answers to. While learning to understand the frustrations of trying to navigate the day-to-day challenge of childhood and not knowing her birth parents, Albin developed a curiousness for the world around her, trying to figure out how everything worked and taking things apart to understand the mechanisms.
Albin describes herself as “the girl with the white dress getting dirty, picking up pollywogs, hanging out with snapping turtles, getting in trouble all the time…I was considered defiant growing up because I would just do those things.”
Eventually, college was on the horizon and, trying to do what seemed to fit the picture of a traditional career path, Albin decided to pursue graphic design. She pushed herself to learn more and, through summer school classes, found a rhythm to help her succeed in her studies.
However, life would change during her college years when she found her birth parents.
“Everything I felt inside was real,” Albin said. “Everything was validated for me.”
Her career trajectory would also take a turn when she realized she was from a family of mechanics and electrical engineers, even owning their own trucking company. Albin ended up leaving during her second semester of college to begin working with her family.
Starting over, Albin found her place doing the books for the maintenance department slowly working her way into the shop itself. She took every opportunity she could to learn and understand the vehicles. She did oil changes, brake repairs, worked on maintenance logs, whatever it took to get experience.
Albin’s father eventually sold the fleet and Albin found herself working at a school bus company where she would answer the phones. However, opportunity came once again when the company let her work with a software engineer. They worked together to develop a software program for their maintenance division with Albin creating an inventory system to keep track of each unit.
Albin began learning more about engines and started going on fleet forums to ask questions and continue the learning process. It was during this time that she ended up being hired on with Dattco Sales & Service, which led to a job with Navistar in 2009. From there, her journey as a technician started to snowball earning her Master Truck Certification, Master Bus Certification, and Master of Navistar Product. In 2016 she came over to the truck side at Taylor & Lloyd in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Looking at a Career Path with a Different Lens
Using her own experience as a gauge for other women looking to follow a similar path Albin is encouraging a focus on specific talents and the value of hands-on experience. She describes her shop as different from other shops where self-education is encouraged.
“We get to see different failures, where we’re losing time, where I just didn't do a procedure correctly or maybe I should do this first,” she said. “And I do a lot of studying on my own time as well. For me, it's just having the confidence to know that if somebody else can fix this or do it I can do it too.”
Networking among women has also become important for Albin and it’s something that she’s seeing more of. It’s something Albin didn’t have as much access to when she was first getting into this career. Now it’s all about community, whether it’s an online social media group or moderating for a fleet panel.
Through that community, she adds another layer: support, whether it is through training or day-to-day encouragement.
“What I can do is support them through my experience and let them know that, you know, everything will be okay,” she noted.
She’s also a believer in apprenticeships throughout a person’s career.
“You don't need to have the education coming into it, just apply for an apprenticeship program,” she said. “You're going to learn how to do it.”
During Albin’s own learning process, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence was a certification on her radar and a current goal she is working toward. There are challenges, but it’s about finding ways to work through those challenges.
“I don't know every single theory that you will learn in school, I was just dropped in the middle of it and I'm learning the history of modules, history of engines, and then going forward I'm learning the new stuff coming into it. Every single day is just a learning process. I did suffer from that conflict with myself thinking I'm not good enough because I didn't go to school.”
Setting Goals and Breaking into Fleet
Answering the question of “How can other women find the best place for them in the fleet industry?” Albin’s response is “You have to find the right place to grow.”
She follows this up by explaining that if you’re feeling stagnant in that career path to clearly define goals. Ask where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.
As Albin put it “There are women and there were women before us and there are going to be women after us. However, she points out that while the industry has become more accepting, there is still more that can be done. And she hopes more women will take up the mantle and keep breaking down those barriers and stereotypes.
“I hope that when a woman walks into a car shop or truck shop she sees women just the same way you would see women at a supermarket or a clothing store in the past,” Albin said. “I want women to feel confident when they bring in a vehicle or when they work for a shop; I want that confidence for all women.”
Changing the Environment to Create More Inclusivity
Improving the work environment for females remains a critical challenge in the industry. In her workplace, Albin has faced certain difficulties, such as the absence of a dedicated women's restroom, sharing a locker room with male colleagues, and having to adapt to facilities designed primarily for men. She is hopeful that newer buildings are being designed with inclusivity in mind.
However, the larger issue lies in retaining female technicians in the industry. She has noticed that certain individuals in the workplace may create obstacles or be unsupportive of female technicians, and some employers may hesitate to promote women to higher positions due to concerns about operational disruptions or additional training.
As a result, talented female technicians may choose to seek opportunities elsewhere, leading to retention challenges. Addressing this issue will require collective efforts from employers to foster an inclusive and supportive work culture. Albin believes that by nurturing an environment that celebrates diversity and gender inclusivity, organizations can empower female technicians, allowing them to feel valued and motivated to pursue long-lasting careers in the fleet industry.
There are strides being made in some buildings to promote inclusivity and support for women in the industry. Albin shared a positive experience while she was pregnant and still working, stating, "My building, when I was pregnant, offered me a room to go pump for when I came back from my maternity leave. They're doing some wonderful things like incentives for women."
But this brings up the point that there are still areas that remain unexplored and need attention, such as pregnancy-related accommodations for women in the industry. She expressed her desire for improved uniform options, specifically tailored for women that prioritize comfort and safety, moving away from the current unisex clothing. "I hope for women to have their own women's pants that are designed for us," she emphasized.
Furthermore, she advocates for increased inclusivity, not only in uniforms but also in providing appropriate facilities like women's bathrooms. Additionally, she hopes for family-friendly policies that support women in balancing their roles as professionals and parents, including those who may be single parents. These aspects are essential for creating a workplace environment that truly values and empowers female technicians.
Despite these positive steps, she acknowledges that gender role perceptions still linger, comparing the situation to the historical transition when more men started to become nurses and women were becoming doctors. She hopes for a future where female technicians can proudly say, "My mentor is a female, and my role model is someone diverse, be it female, trans, or LGBTQ." Her aspiration is for the industry to break away from traditional stereotypes, allowing everyone to have role models that reflect their interests and ambitions, regardless of societal expectations. Ultimately, she hopes to see the stigma surrounding gender roles in the field dissolve, paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
Making Strides for the Future of Fleet
In the realm of fleet maintenance and the automotive industry, Albin encourages the youth to explore the vast array of opportunities that education offers. "Wherever your high school is, find out what courses they offer, or seek programs elsewhere," she advised, recalling how she stumbled upon new ways of learning that went unnoticed during her formative years. Her advocacy lies in empowering young minds to seek out all the educational prospects awaiting them.
She envisions a more inclusive and welcoming industry, even going as far as how fleets promote new job opportunities. "Marketing should be universal, devoid of any gender bias," she insists, promoting a transformation in how the fleet industry is presented to potential recruits.
Albin’s aspirations are not solely confined to the individual but extend to the fleets themselves, envisioning a workforce built on appreciation and recognition.
"Technician appreciation and employee rewards," she articulated, emphasizing the significance of acknowledging the hard work and dedication exhibited by the fleet's workforce. Her commitment to celebrating the achievements of long-standing employees is a testament to her dedication to fostering a gratifying work environment.
In her vision of the future, she sees the fleet industry as a place where mentorships are a part of the process and diversity is embraced. For Albin, it’s about encompassing all identities who have a passion for fleet, and nurturing a culture that breeds acceptance and understanding. "It's not just about females," she explained, highlighting her support for inclusivity across the spectrum.
A true advocate for strengthening the fleet workforce, Albin is eager to bring in anyone willing to learn, and happy to share her love for an industry she cherishes dearly. "I'm not going anywhere," she proclaimed, embodying the steadfast dedication of a trailblazer on a mission to shape a future defined by progress and inclusivity. And at the end of the day, Albin brings it back to having discussions around this.
“I just really want to create that dialogue and a discussion for the fleets and people who are in the industry.”