Calculating the labor time to replace a cylinder head in a vehicle seems like a foreign language to most women, but for Maria Wygnal, it’s just another day on the job. Growing up on a farm with three older brothers and a sister, Wygnal was always just trying to keep up with her older siblings. “I was a determined girl growing up. If I did something I made sure to do it all the way,” she said. “I am just really competitive. I was co-valedictorian in high school, and I guess when I set my mind to something I just do it.” After high school Wygnal continued her education at Michigan State University receiving a bachelor’s degree in advertising with a specialization in public relations. Wygnal said she spent eight years at a commercial real estate company after she was finished with college and although there were perks, it wasn’t something she saw herself doing for the rest of her life. That was when her fiancé, Rob Brown, approached her about starting an automotive repair shop. He convinced her that she would make a good business partner and now, three years later, Wygnal is the office and parts manager at One Stop Auto. She said many people are surprised when they call and hear a woman’s voice on the other end. “When I first started out I could recognize a tire and a hood,” Wygnal laughs. But with much attention to detail and her quick learning skills, she has picked up a lot. “If someone wants their tire pressure checked, I could do it in five seconds now, it’s second nature,” she said. Now that Wygnal has been in the industry she knows enough where she can explain things in simpler terms for people who are unfamiliar, which she said definitely helps the guys out. Even with three years of experience and many accomplishments under her belt, Wygnal admits that at times she feels a bit insecure about being a woman in a stereotypical man’s job. She said she will still get calls where the customer is surprised to hear her say that she can help. However, Wygnal knows at the end of the day her most important job is to make the customer happy and she knows that women are capable of that. “Mechanical work is kind of like being a doctor, you find the symptoms and do the best you can to fix it,” she said. “We have to get trust from them and make it right. We want them to come back, and we want to make them happy. It’s not about a profit but the building of relationships.” With the love and support of those close to her, Wygnal is ready to take the next step in her career. She is working on her national certification testing for Automotive Service Excellence and is looking to be a qualified parts specialist within the year. Wygnal said One Stop Auto has currently been relying on word of mouth for business, but she is ready to put in the work to make it grow by expanding her marketing efforts. “I work 12 hour days almost every day,” she said. “But I am young and have the ability to give 110 percent every day. Down the road I won’t want to do that, it’s time to work now.” If Wygnal would have been told in college that she would be where she is today she said she would have laughed and said absolutely not. But Wygnal said it’s important that women know they can do anything they set their mind to. “We shouldn’t narrow our vision. Even if you have never done something before don’t let it hold you back by thinking you may not be good at it because everyone is good at something.”
Katelyn Sweet is a senior at Central Michigan University studying Integrative Public Relations and Journalism.