Meet Automotive Painter Sylvanah Wolff

My name is Sylvanah Wolff and I currently work at a Ford dealership as a painter.

As a young girl, my dad would always take us to different car shows like Route 66 or just some of the local car shows that were in San Diego and I completely fell in love with the way that people would make their cars look and the time that they spent to make them look a particular way. Although I didn’t want to be a mechanic because that’s what my dad was and I didn’t feel like getting my hands, you know, gross and like… gross (ha! ha!), I decided that once I got into college that I would take collision repair classes. It ended up with me getting into refinishing and after that it was all uphill from there.

My first job was at Fix Auto in Orange, California. I had gotten that job while I was still in college. My professors actually helped me; they called up some of the paint reps and got me some leads into where I could go for an interview. Almost immediately I got into where they referred me. Looking by myself was a little difficult, just because at the time nobody wanted a new person straight out of college that doesn’t have their hands at all in the industry. So it was a little difficult trying to find [a job] without any help, but definitely with the help of my teacher it was much easier for me.

I think a lot of it had to do with realizing what I was worth.

And at first, you know, you start off and you’re not making as much [money] as you want and you’re still learning a whole lot and it’s very difficult for most new students and new people in the industry to cope with that. They want that quick satisfaction, like “I’ve done it, I’m here”, and what I think a lot of people don’t understand is that it takes a lot of time. I got here within six years and I had moved to almost five different shops with a number of painters that all had different views of how things should be done. Once they stop teaching you — if they feel like you’re either going to exceed them, or they just don’t want you to learn, or they get self-conscious about something — then I think it’s time to realize that you are worth more than being kept at a particular level. And that’s not to say to move too fast, because you always want to be open to learn. But don’t close any opportunities that are given to you.

I think the only think that I could really say to people that want to be in the industry is to not give up when things get hard. Every day is going to be a struggle. Every day you are going to make mistakes. And don’t get me wrong; you have good days. You have days when things go according to plan, things go perfect, you have a perfect job that comes out of the booth, nothing goes wrong. And then you have some really bad days where you get [paint] runs, or you have these really bad weeks where you’re not focused at work. And all I can say is that mistakes happen, and don’t let those deter you to keep moving forward.

Mistakes are what make you learn and what make you progress.

If I were to say anything, it’s just don’t quit when things get hard, because every day is going to be a struggle and every day you’re going to learn new things. New things that will help you grow and succeed. And if you quit, you never give yourself the chance to keep pursuing the passion that you want.

Sylvanah continues to be an inspiration in our industry! You can follow her and her journey, on Instagram, at @instylvanah

Over $150K in scholarships awarded each year! Visit Collision Repair Education Foundation for information.


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