Director of operations | Zimmerman's Automotive Service Inc. | Age: 30
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was as a quick lube technician in our rapid lube. I started out as a courtesy tech then followed through our training program to be the one in the pit changing oil.
What attracted you to the industry?
The automotive aftermarket has been a part of my life since the day I was born. My father was a huge muscle car enthusiast and being that both he and my mother were my biggest role models, I wanted to walk in their footsteps. I am now the third generation working for my family's business and have been working for the company since 2001. In 2005, I graduated from high school and went off to college to pursue my degree in business. After two years of college, I began to feel like the whole college scene wasn't for me because I knew what I wanted to do, work for the family business. This industry has become such a passion for me and I hope one day my boys will have that same passion.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge in my career has really been being taken seriously by not only by some of the industry professionals, but by customers. Being young and a woman in this industry is tough. With having such strong support behind me (my mom), I was able to overcome this and come out a much better person. The women’s groups that are out there today in the industry are so amazing and supportive.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
The biggest influence on my career is my mother, Judy Zimmerman-Walter, and my father, Jeff Walter. Both my parents became two of four owners of Zimmerman's Automotive in the 1990s. They have always encouraged us to follow our hearts when it came to finding a career. I was never pushed into going into the family business but I always knew that it would be where I work. Now being here full time for over 10 years, my parents are still my biggest influence and I greatly enjoy watching the two of them work. I find myself becoming a much better person than I ever thought I could be because of them.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
I would have to say that my biggest accomplishment was being acknowledged in an article in Ratchet + Wrench magazine about the community work we do here at Zimmerman's. A huge part of my job is community relations. We hold a number of different events throughout the year for our community and they have become a big part of our mission. After the article was published I got a call from the founder, Charlie Marcotte, of the national organization, Family Service Day. After that call, I began work on the biggest project and event of my career, our first Family Service Day. We helped 16 families with necessary automotive service and repairs.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
Twenty years from now I hope to be one of the owners of my family’s business, Zimmerman’s Automotive, and starting to groom the next generation of the business.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
The biggest issue we are currently seeing in our business is the lack of technicians. Our generation, and younger, have been taught that going to trade school is for the kids who are not smart enough for a four-year college. This negative view on the trades has really hurt the automotive industry.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
I wish I had known more about the vast opportunities that are available, in the industry, and not just those at our family business. Not that I don’t love my job, because I really do love my job, but there are so many incredible groups and trade associations, that I am only getting involved with now, that I wish I had known more about before now.
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
Come in with an open mind. This industry is incredible! If you have just a little bit of interest in cars, I promise you that there is something that you will find and fall in love with.
Tell us about your family.
I am a full-time working momma of two adorable little boys, Brantley and Mason, the proud wife of an incredible man, Dan, and a full-time student. Our oldest son is autistic, so to say that I am a busy person is probably an understatement. I work alongside my mother (operating owner at Zimmerman’s and my boss) who has been my role model for not only being an amazing business woman but a trailblazer in our industry. My father is the executive director of our state trade association, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Pennsylvania, and he also has been a role model for me. My family means the world to me and to be able to work closely with them has been a challenge but also the biggest blessing I could ask for.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
Being with my family.
What keeps you up at night?
Knowing paperwork is piling up on my desk, but I can’t seem to get through it.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I am a former volunteer firefighter in my hometown and that is how I met my husband.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I love listening to my boys sing songs. I could do that for hours!
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I could slow down time. I feel like I do not have enough time in my day to finish up my work, my school work, and spend time with my family.
What’s your favorite food?
I honestly don’t know that I really have a favorite food. I do however love eating at Panera Bread and Chili’s.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I would love to have dinner with my Grandma Carol who passed away when I was 7. She took care of us while my parents worked and I remember so much of that time. She got sick very suddenly and passed away very fast. Being at that age, it was hard on me and to this day I wish very much to be able to see her again.
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
I go most every day without hardly looking at my phone, unless someone calls me, because of how fast my days go by. I think that I could go about two weeks, maybe even longer.