Internal Combustion: The Power It Takes to Keep Moving Forward in Automotive

by Jana Warnke

Writer, illustrator, wife, mom, multimedia artist, former salon owner/instructor & full-time automotive tech student Jana Warnke is an autobody-gal-in-training from Seattle, Washington who advocates for a more diverse automotive industry.

This industry truly doesn’t get the respect it deserves for the steep slope of knowledge and experience that it takes to work on a machine with thousands of parts. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have doubted myself in the last month, or year, because I get more negative feedback than positive, and its draining. The reality of it is that I can sense the doubt of others and I tend to internalize that kind of thing. They doubt me because I’m new, because I have humility which may allude to a lack of confidence, and, in general, because I’m not what they expected.

What happens to the empath in the automotive industry? Well, if they aren’t exceedingly headstrong and courageous, I assume they merely cease to exist, moving on to something where they aren’t having to send up smoke signals to be recognized as skilled fire-starters.

We are a lot like the four strokes of an engine, taking a deep breath, getting ready to press in on our available work day, pushing through, adding our stores of energy to our sparks of genius, barreling down with all our might to make the work worthwhile, and getting rid of the crap that’s leftover so we can start clean again. That last part of the cycle, though, is where so many of us get choked out.  The valve didn’t open fully for one reason or another and we get stuck recycling fumes that threaten our performance. New parts and investments (positive reinforcement and compensation) are usually required, but I’ve noticed the majority of good, honest workers become like poorly running machines, through no fault of their own. The tuning and parts they need most are at a specialty machine shop, and the elusive skill to rebuild a better, more powerful version of themselves is wasted while they sit on a shelf, pulled apart, waiting for someone to see their potential. We are left to slowly degrade until we find a shady tree to sit under; a project for another time, until someone finally sees our worth. 

Good workers – underpaid, exploding with enthusiasm and ideas – are being consumed by rust; unappreciated and deemed ‘too much work’. But they didn’t start out that way, and maybe we should start to look at why.  As for me, I hope that I’m a barn find.

Follow Jana’s automotive journey on Instagram: @enginiousopal

Photo: Jana Warnke

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