Destiny Potter got her start in the workplace at age 16, but has achieved success far beyond graduation day.
THE DEAN’S LIST: Indiana collision repair pro Destiny Potter‘s career arc proves the impact and longevity of human kindness and scholarship. She’s a 2017 graduate of Lincoln College of Technology with an Associate’s Degrees in Business Management and Service Management, a multi-award-winning SkillsUSA alum, mechanic, refinisher, detailer, Quality & Service Technician, and I-CAR-certified Estimator for Andy Mohr Collision Center in Indianapolis.
QUOTABLE: “In my humble opinion, the automotive collision industry is a male-dominated industry. So as a female, I have to be a role model not only for other females but for everybody within the high school region.” — Destiny Potter, during her CREF Lon Baudoux Memorial Scholarship Award acceptance speech in 2017.
Continue Below for an Exclusive Interview With Destiny Potter
You joined the autobody industry while in high school. Did you discover the Collision Repair Education Foundation back then?
Destiny: Yes, it’s been about six years ago now. I was in my senior year of high school when I came in contact with CREF Managing Director Brandon Eckenrode through my instructors. Brandon and I had an awesome connection and kept in touch, and later CREF awarded me the scholarship. But their surprise of also erasing my debt from college was huge for me. It was amazing and very sweet of them. When I called my mom after the ceremony I broke down crying because I couldn’t believe it was happening.
It sounds like your family was supportive of you entering the industry, too.
Destiny: Somewhat. They’re a little split over it. My mom was very supportive. My father, however, was a little off-put by it. My uncles were very happy about it. My grandpa was a little iffy about the situation because he actually works for General Motors. He was like “Cars aren’t the thing for women…”, but I told him that this career is what I want to do, and that it’s whatI’m going to do. I’d had several other career opportunities but at the end of the day I wanted to work with vehicles because I’m an automotive enthusiast and cars make me happy. My mom was my biggest supporter, though.
What has your experience been like as a technician?
Destiny: It has been a bit challenging. Once I started working, my family was more supportive. At the time, I was16 years old when ABRA Auto Body & Glass (now known as Caliber Collision) created a part-time detailer position for me. Later I was approached with an offer to become an Estimator. Well, once I became an Estimator the challenges started because adult clients would tell me “You’re 18, you’re too young to be doing this. You’re too young to know what you’re talking about.”
My work team and my family gave me excellent advice and helped me to overcome it, and at that point I learned that the only thing I can do to gain a customer’s trust and respect is to clearly explain their repair scenario to them: “Look, I’m not a painter but I’m going to follow the guidelines. This is what the manufacturer recommends and requires for your vehicle and this is what we have to do.” Once the customer understands, then they can trust me.
The main challenge for me has been clients perceiving that I shouldn’t be doing the job or that I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve encountered some harsh words, but I love the feeling of turning them 100% around from a combative situation into an awesome experience with a lifetime customer. It’s great!
Were there other mentors you leaned on for support?
Destiny: Yes, I have a few. One of my main inspirations is a lady named Danielle who was an Estimator alongside me and who later became my manager at Caliber. She knew all the ins and outs, she was amazing. Although I’ve gotten better since taking Nissan and I-CAR classes, structural repairs aren’t my strong suit. So I still call her from time to time if I have questions. My ABRA mentor, Bekka, also helped me get through some tough things, especially being a female in the industry; she would lead me and support me. And since I started at Andy Mohr last year, it’s been a great experience because they wanted to add a female to their team.
The CREF team tells us that you’ve become like family to them.
Destiny: Definitely. Brandon, I-CAR and the CREF team have been so amazing and generous to me. They’re like another family. I feel indebted to those guys. I’m going to do whatever I can not only to inspire others by sharing my story but continuing to help I-CAR and CREF to understand my generation who’s coming into the industry as well as the next generation.