Brianna Phipps enrolled in Minuteman Technical Institute’s (MTI) Automotive Technology program in the fall of 2020. Brianna, who is from Bedford, said she always wanted to work on cars, but enrolled in Southern New Hampshire University after high school because many people encouraged her to attend college. When the pandemic forced colleges to hold classes online in the spring of 2020, she made the decision to leave and enroll in MTI. She also works during the day at the Toyota dealership in Lexington.
Q. Have you always been interested in the automotive field?
Yes. I used to work on cars with my dad when I was little. It’s always been something I was super interested in and loved learning about. It started very early on. There’s a picture of my dad with his car jacked up, and I took my Barbie Jeep and put it on a rock next to him to make it look like I was working on my car too.
Q. Why did you decide to leave college?
I had always wanted to attend a trade school, but some of my family and friends pushed me to go to college. I worked hard because you feel like that’s what you’re supposed to do after high school. When the pandemic hit, it gave me the opportunity to say, ‘I didn’t want to go to college anyway, and I’m definitely not going to college online.’ COVID gave me the push I needed to do what I wanted.
Q. What do you enjoy about automotive?
I like working with my hands, figuring stuff out, and seeing the progression of what I’m doing. I like seeing the pieces of something coming together, intertwine, and create this whole car. I like learning about how different things connect, and how if one thing doesn’t work, it makes something else not work and you have to figure it out. It’s like a giant puzzle.
Q. How has MTI helped you in your current job?
I work in the service center of the Toyota dealership. Right now, I’m doing basic stuff like oil changes, tire rotations, and brakes. As time goes on, they are showing me more and more of the machines and how different procedures work.
I’ll learn stuff [at MTI] and go to work and understand the problem and help with something. At the same time, I’ll learn something at work – for example, how to use a new machine – and I’ll come back to class and show people and be excited to practice it. It works both ways. It’s cool to use the knowledge in both places.
Q. What is it like to work all day and take classes at night?
It’s definitely exhausting. But, because automotive is something I am so interested in, it’s motivating. It’s always exciting to learn new things like how to use the machines and the tools. I would love a nap sometimes, but it’s not some kind of dreadful experience that I have to power through. I am actually excited to be here.
Q. What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated field?
It’s motivating. The guys could slack off and don’t have to prove themselves. As a girl at work or even at school, it makes me want to do more – not to keep up, but to prove I’m capable. I know I’m capable, so it’s motivating me to do better, learn more, and figure out more on my own.
Q. What are your long-term career goals?
Automotive is a starting point. I definitely want to get my commercial driver’s license (CDL) and learn how to drive big trucks. My uncles and my brother are all truck drivers. The automotive field ties into that because I want to be able to understand and fix what I am driving. I eventually want to learn how to work on diesel engines. I want to learn everything that will help me do better in my career path. I want to learn as much as I can.
Q. Are you enjoying MTI more than a traditional college?
Absolutely. I love it way more being here. That’s because it’s what I want to do, and that makes it motivating. We’re learning a ton of different things. Anytime anybody’s car needs work, we’re opening up the online modules and getting the information. It’s real-life application from the beginning.