Talk about breaking stereotypes! Have you ever had a problem with your car and imagined a lady bending down to get her hands dirty fixing it? Well, Joy Amuche Obi is breaking the norm and not only is she a mechanic, she specializes in fixing exclusively the “Benz” brand in Nigeria. We caught up with the ‘Lady Benz’ recently and our conversation with her was all shades of inspiring. You should pull a seat, a bowl of popcorn or three and enjoy!
You seem to have a flair for things that people ordinarily wouldn’t want to venture into. Do you consider yourself a ‘rebel’ of some sort? Tell us, who is Joy Amuche obi?
Well I am not a rebel per say but I have a deep passion for absolute self-dependence and self-development, I totally disagree with conformity, as I believe that absolute freedom is achieved when we are able to push our limits and be the best version of ourselves.
You studied Mechanical Engineering, in school- did that course of study fuel your fascination for automobiles?
As far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the activities of automobile mechanics. As a young girl; at about age 14 or so, I always visited local auto-workshops to feed my interest on how these mechanics are able to solve the various problems presented by the vehicles at the workshop. As soon as I graduated from secondary school, I knew mechanical engineering was my career path and I was ready to make the necessary sacrifice to understand how auto-mechanics operated.
Working in a male dominated sector is commendable. Have you had any peculiar experience on the journey?
I had often been underestimated severally in my work place previously, until I proved them wrong by diligently mastering the process of auto mechanics especially while handling challenging tasks which involved fixing complex vehicle problems. This earned me much respect and consequently I was nicknamed ‘Lady Benz’, because I was exceptional throughout the time I spent with them. Also, I earned the favour and trust of our Head of Department at Mercedes Benz Nigeria, LadoPaichadze, a Georgian.
Let’s talk about reception, how was this path you chose for yourself received by family and loved ones?
While living with my aunty as a little girl, she discouraged me from visiting a mechanic workshop. I was often beaten by her each time I visited one. At that time I assisted her in selling food at the mechanic Village in Bida, Niger state, Nigeria. But the more she beat me, the more I got interested in the learning the job.
When I got admission to study mechanical Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic in Bida, some of my friends advised me not to go for auto mechanics because they thought that I was too beautiful to get stained with grease and Engine oil and may not be able to make certain hairstyles, fix nails etc. But I turned deaf ears to their advices because I was passionate about Auto mechanics. I’ll also add that I was encouraged by some of my lecturers like Engr. Okene Usman, Engr. Victor Haruna and late Mallam Abubakar Aliyu which went a long way.
When I got married and was pregnant, my husband discouraged me from working because he felt it was too tedious for me to handle my pregnancy with work, but somehow, I was able to manage. During the period of my pregnancy, with the support from my husband and colleagues at work, I was able to do my work as diligently as possible until the moment of my delivery.
What would you say drives you?
I love challenges a lot, so I am driven by my passion to surmount any challenges in the path of my chosen career.
Can you share some highlights of your professional journey so far?
So far I have worked in different Engineering firms including Auto workshops like, International Tools, Mercedes Benz Nigeria both in Lagos and abroad. I have also attended several Engineering conferences and Auto Mechanics workshop in Georgia and Germany. In 2016, I started operating my own Ultra-Modern Auto Workshop; Femina Auto Care Centre along Ajah-Lekki Express way in Lagos where we specialize in the repair of Mercedes Benz vehicles.
What work ethic(s) has contributed to your professional growth so far?
Punctuality, dedication to my duties and honesty.
You are quite spirited about youths and women development; do you have any plan for female mechanical engineers in the nearest future ?
Yes, I do have a plan to reach out to young women. At the moment I train young women including young school leavers in Auto Mechanics for free.
Do you believe in the effectiveness of mentorship? Can you share briefly, some women you consider mentors?
Yes, I do believe in the effectiveness of mentorship. One of the women I consider a good mentor is, Barrister Obiageli Nwampko. She spurs me on especially when faced with challenges. Also, I was opportuned to be among the panelist during a Bank of Industry skill acquisition and project presentation program for intending Auto Mechanics in 2016. After the program, I was assigned to some of the persons as their mentor, and till date I still keep in touch with them.
From your experience and observation, what will you say is the greatest challenge women face and how do you think they can overcome this challenge?
From my experience, I have observed that, women are mostly undermined, simply because people think they cannot handle tough situations or responsibilities and I think they can overcome this challenge, by re-orientating their mindset. Women should stop thinking that they cannot handle tough responsibilities because of their gender. Also, women should pursue their education and career with zeal.
Do you have a life philosophy- a personal mantra that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?
No short cut to success
Can you tell us which of your accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I have trained a lot of young women and young men in Auto mechanics and most of them are doing well in their various practices. This I consider an accomplishment in my path and I am proud of it.
So, what are your projections for the next 5 years?
Within the next 5 years, I should have trained one thousand young women across Africa in auto mechanics and gotten franchise from Mercedes Benz Daimler Chrysler in Stuttgart, Germany.
Any advice to women & girls out there that would love to go into your field?
The Auto mobile industry is very big and you can make quite a huge fortune from practicing Auto Mechanics, but you should be willing to be dedicated to learning the processes involved. Just like selling foodstuffs in the market, with or without money, people must buy food stuffs to prepare food. So also people would always fix their cars as long as auto mobiles remain the most used means of transportation in the world.
The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who have demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email email@example.com, and she could possibly be featured.