Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In this installment of “5 Minutes With,” we get to know Allison Chisenhall-Harding, chief operating officer for Vintage Air.
Harding has her degree in Chemical Engineering and has a passion for cars. When she’s not optimizing manufacturing and production at Vintage Air, you can find her cruising in her 1957 Chevy Corvette. She’s a recent recipient of the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize. In addition to serving as the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network Resources Committee Chair, she’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt graduate.
What was your first job in the industry?
So, my first job in the automotive industry was with Vintage Air, actually. I got out of college, and I went into cancer research first and then into defense. It wasn’t until three years ago that I joined to Vintage Air, as a manufacturing engineer first, then I transitioned into design and then the role I’m in now.
What do you like best about your current position?
I love working with people. I think a lot of people who are engineers don’t always feel that way. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I noticed that I liked working with people, I thought that was kind of unique and needed to pick up on how to incorporate that in an engineering role. I also am big on things being fast-paced – especially with production, which is what I’m working with. Mostly you have to get the product out the door like now, so it gives you a drive and a way to steer your focus back on track.
Did you initially intend to pursue a career in the aftermarket? If not, what drew you to the industry and what keeps you here?
Well, I kind of grew up in this industry. For my whole life, I was going to car shows as a kid. That was just what we did, so, I always had that interest in. It’s just a really unique industry, because it’s about people’s hobbies, which I think is cool.
What do you do when not at work?
Right now, I’m working on my Master’s [degree], so that’s taking up most of my non-work time. But when I’m doing fun things, I love to travel with my friends and my family. I like to stay really active. We are always going on hikes or bike rides or to fitness classes. I love cooking also.
What one word best sums up your personality?
I definitely think that would be energized. I always get that as the word people refer to me as. I just don’t really know how to quit.
What was your first car?
The first one was a 1956 Thunderbird. I got it when I was 16. It was in horrible condition. I’d be driving with my friends to the mall and mid-intersection it would just die. So, I got really good early life experience of why people like to upgrade their old cars.
If you could time-travel, to where and what in era would you want to visit?
I love the clothes and style of women’s stuff in the 50s. I am obsessed with how it looks, but I don’t think that like my slightly feminist-slanted personality would have made it [back then]. I think maybe for me traveling ahead would have been better.
My favorite quote is: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” You want to put yourself around people who are smarter than you, or more educated or more experienced, just so you’re always learning.