Katie Tatum is one of the only 7.3% of women in the United States that work in the automotive repair industry.
A longtime Woodbridge resident and graduate from C.D. Hylton High School, Tatum is an automotive technician that works on Ryder vehicles.
“I found out [Hylton] had an automotive program, so immediately – halfway through my junior year – I dropped art for auto tech,” said Tatum.
When Tatum was 17, she decided she wanted to work as an intern in automotive shop to get experience that would help her in her career, but she ran into some challenges.
“In high school, I was 17 when I was looking for a job, and I’m not that big – and I’m female, so it was really hard to get a job. A lot of places turned me down. They looked at me and said ‘no’ immediately. And [HomeTowne] was the first shop to give me a chance,” said Tatum.
HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire in Woodbridge took at chance on Tatum, and hired her to work in the shop, where she worked until she left for college.
“I learned a lot working here. It was actually my first job – I really miss it. That experience getting a job [at HomeTowne] – and how hard it was – helped me in the truck industry, because I get turned down even more. And it helped me land the current job I have now,” said Tatum.
During her time at HomeTowne, Tatum did a lot of introductory automotive work like oil changes, fixing brakes, and detailing cars. According to Tatum, she took that hands on knowledge she learned and used in automotive competitions, earning scholarship money that she used to attend Ohio Technical College.
Tatum completed her Associate’s degree in Diesel Technology.
“I have other females pursuing a job in this industry ask me for advice all the time…I can tell you to not be intimidated by this industry. It might seem a little scary at first, but stand your ground, don’t be scared. Especially if there’s a shop that will take a chance on you, like this one did with me,” said Tatum, continuing, “I’m going to come into work in a dress and lipstick, and I’m gonna put on my work uniform, and I’m gonna fix that truck.”
HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell recalled Tatum’s time interning with the shop, and the importance of finding interns that are the right fit.
“So the important thing about interns is finding that right person, that really has the desire to learn and is willing to put forth the effort to do that…this is a very male-dominated industry and it’s refreshing to have a woman in the shop,” said Campbell.