Real Model interview episode #36 featuring Charlene De Angelis, Repair Consultant at Solus Accident Repair Centres

Charlene De Angelis
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Charlene De Angelis, Repair Consultant at Solus Accident Repair Centres.

In the interview below, Charlene highlights that she wants to show women are equally capable of being in technical roles and hopes to open the door for other females to enter the industry. She urges women to be true to themselves and details that helping others is the key to her happiness! Hear more from Charlene below.

What is your job and what does it involve?

I am currently a Repair Consultant and I assess cars for crash repairs for Solus Accident Repair Centres on behalf of Aviva insurance. I do this in numerous ways including estimating cars on-site, via images that customers forward to us, and by going out to our customer's home or work addresses. I explain the repairs that need to be carried out to my customers, create the job cards for the workshop and wherever possible ensure that the parts required can be pre-ordered before the cars arrive on site. This creates the opportunity for zero down and helps us get our customers' cars back to them sooner.

How long have you worked in the sector and what attracted you to the sector?

I have been in the motor industry for 22 years now and what initially attracted me to the sector was the fact that there are very few female engineers or women generally in this industry particularly in technical roles. I thought that by being one of the first I might be able to open the door for other women if I could show that we are equally capable and could be equally comfortable doing this type of work and that perhaps it might be easier for others if they could already see another female there. This gave me such a great sense of empowerment and purpose both of which are necessary if you want to sustain an intrinsic interest on any career path.

What is your career history?

Gosh…well, I began my career as a trainee estimator where I spent 4 years being trained at a body shop in Kentish Town by my dad. The processes and technologies have come an incredibly long way since then but I will forever have a lasting memory of having to agree on figures remotely with insurance engineers. We did not have the imaging technology we have today and so large portions of my day were spent walking about the workshop viewing cars with a helicopter rescue headset and microphone on, a handheld video camera, and a powerpack strapped to my waist all of which were connected via cables to a huge silver box on wheels. I would have to show damage and negotiate figures with the insurance company engineers this way which I thought was absolutely amazing at the time! Since then, I have been in numerous other roles including car sales, business development, and general manager positions but most of my career has been in engineering. I did spend a couple of years outside the motor industry working for a chain of Italian restaurants where I was also able to work myself up to a general managerial position. This was really hard work and incredibly long hours but it gave me a whole new perspective on customer service. We would have training on how to pick up on body language and levels of eye contact that show dissatisfaction so that we could enquire and act before being unhappy became a complaint. This has served me very well ever since and is invaluable for anyone wanting to know and understand how to do their best to meet their customers' expectations.

What do you like best about your job?

I have quite an analytical mind and I love to problem-solve. Sometimes assessing damaged vehicles is like piecing together a jigsaw. Each panel fits another and if one moves it will often take other panels with it. This is especially useful to know when assessing heavily damaged vehicles where the structure of the car has been affected. If the chassis has been damaged often there are external panels that will also have moved, indicating internal damage before you even lift a bonnet or open a boot, there are always exceptions though!

What are your future aspirations?

I aspire to progress into managerial or leadership roles, to show that there is the opportunity for women not just to start in technical roles but also to develop their knowledge and move up as well, after that……. wherever the top is?! Ultimately, I want to be able to continue to normalise the female presence in technical and managerial positions across the industry and maybe act either directly or indirectly to help other women on their journey as well.

Can you name a woman in automotive that inspires you and why?

I attended a conference for women in the automotive industry a couple of years ago and one of the key speakers was a lady called Yvonne Holden who is the General Manager for Aftersales Development at BMW UK. I have never met her face to face but she gave a speech that day about her experience in the motor industry. She talked about her successes, mentors, and many other things. She spoke about a time in her career where she had come to realise that she was approaching her work in a very masculine way, attempting to operate the same way as her male counterparts. This had led to her being unable to meet her aspirations because of the inauthentic way she was approaching her position and unsurprisingly coming across as disingenuous. After reassessing she began to operate in a way more consistent with who she was and it was this that enabled her to attain her career goals. This message really resonated with me as I have found myself in a very similar situation, essentially denying who I am as a person because I thought that was what was expected for me to be able to succeed. This really couldn’t be further from the truth and I would encourage everyone to be who they really are, you might be pleasantly surprised by the response.

What makes you happy?

Helping people makes me happy. Whether it is helping other sites that need repair consultant support, getting our customers back to normal, or being a shoulder for someone to cry on. Being there for people in a way that they need me to be there really gives me purpose and enormous satisfaction.

Which word or phrase do you most overuse?

Awesome! Amongst friends and colleagues, it has become ‘my’ word, even when I am not the one using it!!

What is your worst trait?

My worst trait is that when I become extremely stressed instead of taking a step back to evaluate, I push myself even harder to try and gain control over how I am feeling or what I am doing. I usually do not realise when I begin to do it either which just makes the situation even worse. I am trying to practice a little more self-care and learning how to spot the warning signs so I can better identify when I need to give myself a bit of a break.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a person who was not afraid to stand up and speak their mind, even if my opinion went against the status quo. All change must start somewhere so regardless of whether you are the first, second, third, or 1000th person to say it you must speak out.

What advice would you give to women who are wanting to progress in the sector?

I would say that if you find yourself struggling to get to where you want to go first, check your authenticity levels and ask yourself if you are acting in a way that is true to who you are. Second, find yourself an ally either where you work or by networking with other women in the industry. I guarantee you will eventually find someone who is going through the same experience as you. Third, if you are alone and cannot find support do not give up on the dream, we will only be able to make change possible if we all stick with it.

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