Females in the industry can be found in just about every facet of the hot rod scene. Whether they’re die-hard car gals that have made their passions the basis of their careers or females that just kind of fell into the industry but wouldn’t have it any other way, some of the most influential professionals in the male-dominated automotive industry are women.
For our latest Leading Lady, QA1 President Melissa Scoles, branching into her position was one of those things that was just bound to happen. Not only did Scoles grow up with QA1 CEO and Founder Jim Jordan as a father, she was also exposed to cars from a very young age and quickly fell in love. What more could you want than a well-educated, passionate car gal at the head of one of the industry’s leading high-performance suspension component manufacturers?
From a very young age, Scoles was part of the automotive community, whether she realized it at the time or not. With her car-minded father founding QA1, Scoles was exposed to the ins and outs of the performance automotive industry as her dad remained dedicated to both his growing business and his family. It was that exposure that truly shaped her passions and successful career. It wasn’t until Scoles’ teenage years, however, that her automotive passion really took off.
“I knew I was into hot rods the first time I got to drive one,” Scoles told us in a recent email conversation. “I learned to drive stick on a ’69 GTO and have been hooked since then.”
As a teenager, Scoles spent a good chunk of time in the QA1 facility, starting out by folding boxes and putting away inventory. During college, she got even more involved, attending shows like SEMA and PRI while familiarizing herself more and more with the industry and QA1’s product line.
In 2003, after receiving her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing from the University of Illinois, Scoles took a full-time position at QA1, working her way up the company ladder from the bottom.
“When I started full time, I began in customer service and worked my way through just about every position at the company, including material handling, assembly, accounting, marketing and more,” Scoles explained. “Working throughout the company helped me to understand what each and every employee encounters in their position, helping me to be an effective leader.”
Wanting to expand her skill-set even more, Scoles went back to school in 2007, this time graduating from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management with her Masters of Business Administration.
During her stint back at school, Scoles studied Business Administration in Cologne, Germany and did a marketing research project with Dairy Queen in Shanghai, China, both experiences she told us she wouldn’t have changed for the world.
After receiving her MBA, Scoles went on to work for a software development company to gain some outside experience. In January of 2011, Scoles returned to QA1 in a full-time management position and in July of 2013, she was promoted to president of the company.
“In 5 and 10 years, I will still be at QA1, continuing to lead an innovative and motivated group of people. We are currently expanding the breadth of our company with the introduction of our Advanced Materials Division and in-house carbon fiber filament winding. I am excited to see what new doors this division will open for us as a company in the future.” -Melissa Scoles
Since returning to QA1 in 2011, Scoles has helped advance the company’s position in the industry. As the Vice President of Marketing and then the Executive Vice President, Scoles oversaw the acquisition of Edelbrock’s Suspension Division and CAP Auto Products, and was an integral part in organizing QA1’s new Advanced Materials Group. Now as President, Scoles is leading a project to expand the company’s manufacturing space to accommodate its growth.
“I am involved in everything from sales and marketing to budgeting and operations,” Scoles told us. “Every day brings something new – we are constantly adding new equipment to increase our manufacturing capabilities, test fitting vehicles, hiring new personnel, visiting customers, exploring new advertising mediums, developing new products and new product ideas, creating new training techniques, and attending trade shows and events.”
While this all sounds like a lot to take on, Scoles loves her job and is excited to continue having a leading role at QA1. Her favorite part? “Being part of a growing company where each employee truly cares about our customers, our products, and the industries we are a part of,” Scoles told us.
In addition to her company duties Scoles also enjoys spending time with her family. Between her professional and personal life it is one impressive balancing act that requires serious time management skills – something that every professional can attest to. Just like her father, Scoles sees her family as a priority and will go the extra mile to not sacrifice anything in her career or family roles.
While the automotive industry is dominated by men, Scoles doesn’t see any difference between her position at QA1 and any other positions held by females in other industries.
“Being a female at QA1 is no different than it is anywhere else,” She explained. “We understand that there are a growing number of females in the industry and are excited about the growing diversity.”
Scoles has a similar attitude about the automotive industry in general.
“I’ve been involved in two male-dominated industries with automotive and software, so I guess I don’t know any better,” Scoles told us when asked what it’s like being a female in the male-dominated automotive industry.
“It’s fun to be able to put a little female flair into things (I’m typing this on a pink keyboard!), but for the most part, I try to do my best to familiarize myself with every demographic we work with. I’ve been welcomed in every industry I’ve been a part of and am thankful for that.”
But Scoles hasn’t just been welcomed in male-dominated industries, she’s also made history in them. Just this fall, Scoles was recognized in SEMA’s 35 under 35 list, a spectacular achievement for any young professional in the industry. Scoles said, “It was such an honor to be nominated for this award and I look forward to serving the industry for several years to come.”
With experiences like hers, it may seem quizzical that more females have not entered automotive fields. However, with strong women like Scoles in the industry, we have a feeling that more and more young women may just give their automotive passions a chance in the future – at least we hope so.
So what’s Scoles’ advice for any young female looking to branch into the hot rod industry for their career?
“Do it! If you’re passionate about something, make it happen,” Scoles said. “It may be intimidating to get involved in a male-dominated industry at first, but you’ll find that you are welcomed and will quickly love what you do.”
Excellent advice from one of the industry’s leading ladies!
Thanks goes out to Scoles for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. Be sure to check back soon for a look at another Leading Lady!