Twenty-five-year-old Hannah Townsend says she never thought she would end up working in the tire industry.
However, after graduating college and entering the workforce, she decided she wanted a job that was more “hands-on” and “different every day.”
In October 2022, Hannah started working in her current role at Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair, a five-store dealership that’s headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s not what I expected it to be, but I am really glad it’s not,” she says of her job.
Entering the workforce
After graduation, “I started in the food service industry and moved to an office job, where I did a lot of desk and office work,” says Hannah. “I was at the computer all day, just sending out emails or talking on the phone.”
She says that this work caused her to get bored and she realized she would be “happier in a job where it’s really hands-on and I can provide people with something.”
Hannah’s father, Mike Townsend, is the owner of Townsend Strategies, a sales and leadership training company that advises independent tire dealerships on how to improve their processes and profitability.
He and the owner of Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair, Jimmy Matlock, are friends.
“I was actively looking for another job and Mr. Matlock and my dad have known each other for years and were making small talk one day when my dad made a passing comment about me looking for another job,” says Hannah.
“Mr. Matlock told my dad I should interview at Matlock — and I did and got the job!”
Hannah works in customer service and moves interchangeably between all five of the busy Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair locations that are located in Tennessee.
“I answer phones, I schedule appointments (and) communicate with customers and mechanics,” she says. “There are a few things I can advise on and at least at a glance, I can tell people if they need new tires or not.”
Before working at Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair, Hannah said that she had no knowledge of tires or vehicle maintenance.
“Anything related to vehicle maintenance I’ve always just left up to my dad to do.”
Hannah says she is learning from the experienced tire technicians working around her.
“I always try and ask questions,” she says. “I just asked a gentleman yesterday, ‘Are a motor mount and engine mount the same thing?’
“And it turns out they are! He was happy to explain it to me and teach me.”
Asking questions and showing she is willing to learn allows her to feel more comfortable in a male-dominated industry.
Hannah says men are the primary demographic she deals with and she noticed a “little push-back here and there, especially when I was just learning.”
However, that was short-lived. “For the most part, all the men I work with are married and have children,” she says.
“They’re all very kind and as long as I show them I’m open to learning and I’m going to make mistakes, but learn from them, they appreciate that.”
One of her favorite things about being a woman in a male-dominated industry is surprising customers.
“It’s always nice to surprise people with the knowledge that I have (gained) so far,” she says.
“If a customer comes to me and asks to speak with someone else, I will try and solve (the request) for them first instead of just passing them off.”
Hannah says she wants to stay in the tire industry long-term and is eager to learn more about cars and tires.
“I think what I would like to learn most is just different things about cars, here and there,” she says.
“I’m very thankful I get to work around a lot of kind people, who are always willing to answer my questions when they see I want to learn or I’m curious.
“I’d like to learn a few more things — just enough to be dangerous!”
Hannah’s status as a woman in the tire industry is important to her. She says she would love to help as many people as she can, especially other women.
“If there’s any other woman going into the tire or auto industry, don’t lose heart. God is in control and when you get into it and get nervous, pray, take a deep breath and know you can always hand the phone to someone else,” she says with a laugh.