Julie Eley is the newly appointed Strategic Development Manager at National Accident Repair Group.
After her experience in bridge building and explosives, where else would seem such a natural home for Julie as sorting out vehicle damage and the aftermath of road accidents??
The perfect learning curve for many a commercial career we thought, coupled with a must-have sense of humour and a love for what she does now. So naturally we wanted to know more about her experiences in the accident repair industry…
Q: What does your new job entail Julie?
I’m the Strategic Development Manager at National Accident Repair Group. This is a new position designed to position and support the growth and direction of the business. It involves providing Member/repairers with valuable assistance and benefits they’ll gain from.
There are a number of projects we are developing to strengthen the National Accident Repair Group’s offering.
I get to work with some amazing people, to share best practice and generally help to make a difference with the rest of the NARG Team.
Q: Did you always want to work in the motor industry or was this a stroke of fate?
Definitely not! I wanted to be a bomb disposal engineer having watched Danger UXB (ITV’s WWII series) as a child. The nearest I got to this was joining the Royal Engineers as a Reservist where I got to work with explosives, drive trucks and build bridges. I think this certainly helped build the foundations for the Accident Repair Industry.
I then did some consultancy work in my spare time and managed health and safety at a group of bodyshops which eventually led to a full time position.
I absolutely love the twists and turns. Once you get bitten by the bug you will struggle trying to do anything else, it really is such a great industry to be part of.
Q: Tell us about your career progression…
Prior to working in this industry I worked mainly with young people and training. I progressed from an NVQ assessor, to an Auditor to a Health and Safety Manager.
When I joined this industry I started as a Health and Safety Manager. This role then developed into Compliance to encompass PAS 125 (the industry agreed technical specification for vehicle body repairs) and VM approvals amongst other things. Compliance has always been a constant theme within my career.
An opportunity then arose and I started working in the operational side of the business managing Bodyshop performance. I then started to get involved in other areas such as Customer Service and Engineering.
Last year my career took an unexpected twist and I started working for National Accident Repair Group as an Operations Manager.
Q: Would you say that the industry is more female friendly than it used to be?
I think it is more female friendly now. Certainly there seem to be more women pushing themselves forward and getting noticed.
When I started 10 years ago there was quite a bit of apprehension about women competing in a man’s world. In the beginning I experienced people trying to pull the wool over my eyes but I spent time understanding the industry and how to repair vehicles. I could then answer questions and engage in conversations without looking silly.
I doubt I could repair a vehicle single-handed but knowing the process and having the right people around you is the key.
There are a number of successful women in our industry such as Thatcham’s Lesley Upham who many people look up to, me included.
I don’t ever think the industry ever was entirely chauvinistic, it’s just that many men were scared that they were going to get nagged at work as well! In every industry you will always get a bit of opposition due to gender, beliefs, values etc but that’s life.
None of this should stop any woman breaking into or progressing in this exciting industry.
Q: What advice would you give young women about career opportunities in the motor industry?
I’d say ‘go for it.’ For example I never thought I would win the ABP Industry Knight Award in 2012. I wanted to make a difference in the industry and I was given the right breaks and support from some great people. Nothing is impossible. I think women give this industry a different perspective and a good balance.
Yes women can be successful in every facet of this industry from the workshop floor, in all aspects of customer service through to Management. You really get out of it what you focus on/put in.
Q: How do you switch off after a stressful week at work?
Apart from the obligatory wine, I spend most of my time with my dogs and fundraising for a local animal Sanctuary. I don’t think you can ever completely switch off in this industry. You are constantly reading news and thinking about your next project.
Q: Tell us about the cars you have driven and any all time favourite…
My first car was a rusty Fiat Panda that tipped up when you went round corners – probably my driving! Otherwise I have been lucky with cars and have driven a variety of BMW’s and Mercedes. I borrowed a Porsche Boxter S for a while which sounded fantastic but was disappointing inside, but my all-time favourite was a Honda Civic Type R GT – it was like driving on rails, great fun but not great on fuel consumption, come to think of it.
Thank you Julie for this birds eye view of the accident repair industry you work in. This will surely inspire other females to look again at a part of the motor industry that few of us know much about.
Julie Eley started out building bridges and blowing things up before learning about health and safety and then vehicle repairs after road accidents. We wanted to know if this was a part of the motor industry she could recommend to other females.