Carving Her Path in the Automotive Industry with Confidence and Passion
In the male-dominated automotive industry, there are exceptional women who break barriers, challenge norms, and inspire others with their remarkable journeys… Mika Heeraman, the Director of Unique Auto Panel and Paint, is one of these women – a shining star in the industry who has carved her path with passion and determination.
Inspired by the Past, Building the Future
Mika’s journey in the automotive industry began with a clear objective — to provide for her parents and the local community. As a young girl, she was instilled with the wisdom in a quote from Norman Vincent Peale: “Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” by her mother, and it became her driving force even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Her grandmothers, who themselves were incredible pioneers, also played a crucial role in shaping Mika’s path. Her one grandmother was widowed young. She was a domestic worker who managed to care for her family and had the ability to make everyone around her feel loved. She was selfless and always saw the good in everyone.
Mika’s other grandmother worked in a clothing factory when she was a teenager and later worked in a car production line for a large OEM. She managed to work her way up from production line seat installations to presenting ideas to the world’s leading engineers in Japan. She also completed her Matric at the age of 50 with maths and science.
Mika says it is impossible for her to look back at their achievements and not be encouraged to do more and be better.
Empowerment through Association
As a business owner, Mika’s involvement with the South African Motor Body Repairers Association (SAMBRA) has been transformative. SAMBRA’s support and guidance have empowered her journey as a female leader in the automotive industry. With a desire to become an accredited repairer, Mika turned to SAMBRA at the tender age of 26, armed with a dream but unsure of the way forward. The organisation’s wealth of information and industry know-how provided her with the foundation to navigate the complexities of the trade.
Moreover, Mika found a sense of safety and recognition in the industry through her association with SAMBRA. She now stands tall, is more outspoken and confident, bolstered by the knowledge that she has a platform for consultation and support.
Driving Change Beyond the Industry
Mika’s quest for empowerment isn’t limited to the automotive industry. As a former National Volleyball player with a passion for sports, she also aligns herself with KAD, a female club dedicated to promoting women’s leadership and growth. This nonprofit organisation fosters a sisterhood that encourages learning, growth, and solidarity.
Proud Moments in Resilience
In her four years as a business owner, Mika’s most significant source of pride comes from the daily battles she wins, especially as a first-time mum. Navigating the challenges of running a medium-sized business while balancing motherhood is no easy feat. At one point, the lack of support from insurance companies forced her to consider closing down her business. Yet, Mika’s unwavering determination kept her fighting for survival. She remains hopeful for a fair opportunity in the future.
The Future of Women in the Automotive Industry
While one may assume that women in the automotive repair industry enjoy preferential treatment due to historical disadvantages, Mika debunks this notion. As a female business owner, she faces fierce competition with large, well-established companies, and feels hindered by a lack of equal opportunities. The ideal environment would be one of fair play, where quality and service delivery determine market share. Mika emphasises the importance of insurance companies and the government taking significant steps to remove the veil of tokenism and recognise true female-owned and run businesses.
A Message of Encouragement
For women considering a career in the automotive repair sector, Mika’s message is clear – hard work is essential for success. While the industry may subject women to harsher judgment, it’s crucial to remember their own worth. Always remind yourself of the reason you stepped into the motor industry and carry yourself with confidence, because women do belong and are important in the motor industry. With confidence and determination, women can definitely make their mark.
Mika’s story is an inspiring testament to the power of purpose, passion, and perseverance. Her journey as a female leader in the automotive industry serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring women, proving that with dedication and belief in oneself, anything is possible. Let us celebrate her achievements and learn from her story, encouraging all women to embrace their potential and make a difference in the automotive world and beyond.