1 woman’s journey to steer the auto industry towards inclusion

May 1, 2023
women in the automotive industry

As we all know, combustion engines work on a spark, an explosion and action. For someone who works with engines every day, it’s probably just as well that Maddison Harvey (Madi) is in touch with these dynamics. In fact, spending a bit of time with Madi left us with the impression she is not so far removed from the massive engines she tinkers with as a Trades Assistant at Cummins; a burst of energy leading to forward movement. 

And, as she surges forward, her own personal motor is driving positive change for other women looking to enter her industry. 

There’s something about finely tuned engines and smoothly running teams that draws Madi’s interest. But it started with engines. 

“I’ve grown up around heavy machinery and logging trucks, so I have always known Cummins to be a reliable and trusted brand,” she tells us. 

“On my very first day here I quickly realized that it’s not just the engines that are reliable and trustworthy it’s also the people that work alongside me.”

Clearly for Madi, working on the finely tuned and incredibly sophisticated engines she deals with each day mirrors the teamwork around her. Engine and team working together, achieving results, and finding power in collaboration. 

A family history in the automotive field

Madi’s journey began with a talk with her mother, as so many big moments in life often do.

Madi had been working in early childhood teaching in her native New Zealand. But her mother – something of a trailblazer herself with 25 years as a Trades Assistant already behind her – suggested Madi do a Certificate III in Mechanical Engineering. 

You might say the ignition was switched on and Madi took off. 

maddi woolworths

“I made the move to Australia in 2018 and went out on a limb, taking a position as a Trade’s Assistant. When the opportunity to work at the Cummins Master Rebuild Centre in Brisbane it felt like all the stars aligned for me. 

“Now, with a bit more study, I am looking to gain further qualifications soon, with the support of my HR and managing team here at Cummins.” 

In just a short time with the company, Madi has already gone a long way and she credits the company and its willingness to back her and her ambitions for this progression. 

“None of this would have been possible without the unconditional support of my Cummins family,” she says, “and my mom”, she quickly adds. 

What she loves about working in the automotive industry

Madi is being modest, of course. While the company has backed her, she has had to do the hard work herself. The job is physical and highly technical and having a character that can handle the task is vital. It’s a challenge every day and she clearly loves it. 

“My role entails me to work alongside technicians in disassembling and inspecting Cummins engines of all sizes ranging from 38L to 96L engines.”

Considering that a standard car engine is less than 3L, you can get a sense of just what confronts Madi when she turns up to work. 

women in the automotive industry

“I am not built as big or strong as some people that I work with, but initiative goes a long way when it comes to getting it done,” she says. 

Pushing herself, she says, is “the most challenging part of my job, but also my favorite part about it. My role is very important in keeping the wheels of Cummins turning, and I am maintaining engines that contribute to Australia’s largest export market.”

Discover how Cummins is driving towards a fairer workplace for all. 

Check out their benefits and policies page. 

A supportive culture of male allies

While the engines come and go, and the technical challenges keep coming, Madi admits she relies on the amazing talents of her team to hit the high benchmarks her industry sets. 

“I’ve learnt an astonishing amount about engines, how they work, what can go wrong, how to diagnose. But most importantly I’ve learnt that teamwork and determination can move mountains within the workshop.”

Among the most vital factors in her team foundation are the mentors who have guided her to reach such heights in a short space of time. 

She singles out three male colleagues who have been the most influential to her progress. 

“First, there’s Ali. He taught me everything I know about the processes and diagnostics of an engine from the inside out. 

“Then my supervisor, Adam. Adam has a heart of gold and is so supportive of ensuring all our needs are met and ensuring that we are comfortable and taken care of as a team.

“And finally, Troy. I spent my first week working alongside Troy who is a never-ending fountain of knowledge.”

Surrounded, motivated, and trained by this crew and others, Madi says she has not only learned how these giant engines tick, but also a lot about herself and about how powerful collaboration can be. 

Driving a future for all women in the automotive industry

Even as Madi works deep in the bowels of some massive piece of machinery, covered in grime and sweat, she is thinking of the bigger picture. 

“I am excited to help encourage other women to tap into their potential when it comes to such a heavy industry. 

“We are smart, we are strong, and we are certainly more than capable. I really want women to know they really can do it.”

Doubts, and Madi admits she’s had hers, are just weights to hold women back, she says. 

“I have heard and seen a lot of women doubt themselves when it comes to heavy trades, but anything is possible if you have the will power, determination, and drive to achieve.”

Her philosophy is simple: set your goals, work hard, and you will achieve.

“Go for gold and follow your dreams instead of fitting into the box of social norms or should Be’s. It’s important to put in 100%, 100% of the time. Hard work really does pay off.”

As Madi shifts through the gears in her rapid rise, finding ways to encourage and lay a platform for women to enter the workforce in industries like hers is a major reason for getting up every day and facing those greasy mechanical beasts in the Cummins facility with a smile.

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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