Most people have settled into their career by the time they reach the age of 39, so switching careers at such a stage in life may seem like a daunting prospect – especially when the choice was not of your own volition – but Susan Bock saw the challenge as an opportunity to expand her knowledge and examine her options.
Bock worked at an insurance agency for over 16 years, but in January 2009, her boss informed her that he had to let her go due to downsizing. “It was quite a shock as insurance was really all I had ever known career-wise, but I realized this would be a good opportunity to explore different career options,” she recalls.
Learning that she was eligible for a dislocated worker program since her former boss had laid off over 50% of his workforce, Bock enrolled at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI. Rather than discarding her years of experience in insurance, she decided to capitalize on her existing knowledge by looking at career options that would utilize that experience.
“I enrolled in the Vehicle Refinishing & Repair Technology associate degree program because I figured that I would need to understand how damaged vehicles are repaired if I wanted to seek a career as an insurance adjuster or write repair estimates for a collision repair facility,” Bock says.
Fox Valley’s degree program gave Bock “introductory hands-on experience with understanding how to repair a damaged vehicle. The prospect of heading into shop classes with zero knowledge was incredibly daunting; it was quite an adjustment going from using office equipment to learning how to look for damage on a vehicle, weld (which I absolutely loved), hammer out dents, disassemble and reassemble parts of the vehicle and refinish vehicles, including looking up color codes and mixing toners. And those were just a few of the things I learned!”
“Thankfully, our instructors Jerry Goodson and Joe Kircher were fantastic with teaching someone with zero collision repair skill or knowledge and providing a deeper understanding of the industry,” Bock adds. “Their support, combined with my desire to learn all I could, allowed me to do more than simply get through the course – I thrived!”
With support from Goodson, Bock applied for and won a $5,000 scholarship from the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and AkzoNobel to assist in funding her attempts to further her education in the field. “The CREF scholarship aided me in purchasing the collision repair tools needed to go to school,” Bock shares. “The monies removed a stressor at that time, and with being unemployed, that really meant a lot to have support from the industry.”
“Susan looks at every challenge as an opportunity, and her passion for learning does not go unnoticed,” Goodson said at the time. “It is my belief that she will be very successful in whatever facet of the collision industry she may choose.”
Although Bock initially intended to become an auto physical damage appraiser, she ultimately chose a different path. In January 2012, she began working as an Instructional Designer at I-CAR. “Instead of ending up as a shop estimator or an insurance adjuster, I decided to research, develop and write training courses for the collision repair industry,” Bock notes. “Upon getting hired at I-CAR, I set up an automatic paycheck donation to CREF because I feel it’s important to keep paying it forward.
“Vehicles get damaged and need to be repaired, and we need people to perform those repairs,” Bock continues. “That’s why it is everyone’s responsibility to support the schools that are cultivating the incoming workforce to help ensure that vehicles are repaired safely and properly.”
Acknowledging that becoming an Instructional Designer was “not a career path that had ever entered my mind – or that I was even aware of as an option,” Bock indicates that it was a “great learning experience which laid the foundation for my next role at I-CAR.”
After four years in her first role, Bock moved to the Repairability Technical Support team as an Industry Technical Relations associate, ultimately advancing to Senior Associate Industry Technical Relations. “This position includes answering incoming technical questions via Ask I-CAR emails and phone calls,” she explains. “These questions often lead to I-CAR Collision Repair News articles which further helps the industry. Continuing to assist the industry is very important to me.”
Bock’s journey into the collision repair industry serves as an inspiring example of the heights that can be reached with dedication and a desire to grow, and she feels it’s important for students entering the industry to understand that the industry offers much more than many realize. “Go in prepared to learn everything you can, and understand that there are many different career options available to you. This is a growing field, and we need more new techs coming into this profession, but we need qualified professionals entering other roles as well.”
Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, Managing Director, at Bran[email protected]. Monetary donations can be made online.