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She wanted to be a car mechanic in her teens – and became one: ‘I always had dirt under my nails but I was happy’

When she was a teenager, Mandy Neo’s older friends would take her on midnight and pre-dawn joy rides. That was the beginning of her love for cars and how they worked – and laid the foundation for her becoming a car mechanic in the 90s. 

“We’d wind down the window for some fresh air and listen to the engine sound. Sometimes, we’d go for food at Bukit Timah or just hang out after the drive admiring one another’s engines and modifications, which are no longer legal today.

“I also loved to visit car workshops with friends,” the 46-year-old recalled.

This ignited a fascination with engines. “I love the way the engine moves and functions, how powerful they are, and the technology behind them,” she said.

“Some of the male colleagues were a bit biased against females and would question our capability and knowledge of cars,” she recalled. “I realised that it would not be easy to succeed as a woman in this industry but I was determined to carry on.”

As a mechanic, Neo serviced two to three cars each day, changing the engine oil, checking fluid levels, changing air conditioning filters and oil filters, replacing tyres, and repairing engines. 

“Engine work is probably more tedious and time-consuming because there were more than 10 components I needed to dismantle, such as the cooling system, to reach the engine itself,” she said

“However, getting the engine running again gave me a lot of satisfaction. I always had dirt under my nails but I was happy.”

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STEERED BY HER PASSION

After three years as a mechanic, Neo became a service advisor at a car company. She currently works as a service experience executive at Motor Edgevantage, a specialised workshop for premium and luxury cars. Her job entails explaining to customers the technical details of their repair job – what is wrong, what the repair involves, how long the process takes and how much it costs.

Neo, however, does not let such prejudices get to her. To keep abreast of advances in her industry, Neo also took a National Specialist Safety Certification for Electric Vehicles.

She also goes the extra mile by heading to the workshop twice a week to assist the technician with diagnostics so that she can better explain the repair process to customers.

However, Neo added that it is an unfair stereotype that women are more clueless than men about cars.

“Many men also don’t have a lot of mechanical car knowledge. Sometimes I receive phone calls from men asking me how to open a bonnet or how to top up coolant.”  

Having spent her 28-year career confronting gender stereotypes, Neo takes pride in how far she has come. “Whenever customers, car salesmen or mechanics have that surprised look that says, ‘This woman actually knows about cars’, that makes me quite happy,” she said.

Other women doing unusual jobs:

She left her corporate job to become a wet market fishmonger and opened The Chapalang Shop in Bedok

‘Are you a beer girl?’: Meet Singapore’s first and only certified female brewmaster

She’s preventing wildlife from hitting planes at Changi Airport: ‘There are surprises every day’

She's 'made' about 700 IVF babies in 18 years: This embryologist tells us what it takes to do her job

CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at] mediacorp.com.sg.

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