The value behind mentorship in today’s auto care sector 

January 22, 2024

General Sales Manager at UAP Inc. and Young Professionals in the Auto care sector (YPA) Committee member, Stephanie Cooney-Mann not only enjoys collaboration and connecting with others in the industry, but values it, especially when it comes to career development. When it comes to progressing in Canada’s auto care sector, and navigating one’s career in it, mentorship is an integral part—and Stephanie Cooney-Mann plans to make an impact. 

Stephanie Cooney-Mann, UAP Inc.

In short, why do you think mentorship is important for career development, especially in the auto care sector?  

Mentorship, regardless of what career you are in, is super, super valuable. The auto care sector, though, is so unique, and getting perspectives from different levels of different organizations really helps you make informed decisions and really helps you grow as an individual.  

As much as formal mentorship is important, I also think informal mentorship is equally as valuable. This can be in the form of just asking questions—if you do not know something, ask the question, or even if you know half of it, ask the question. Because you are probably going to get more out of asking that question and further understanding about the market just by asking one question to somebody who has been in it for a long time. 

From your perspective, how would you define informal mentorship? 

Informal mentorship can also just be as simple as connecting and collaborating with others. It is all about networking when it comes to other people and really leveraging people within your organization and outside of your organization. Sometimes, we can get pigeonholed as to what is happening within our own four walls or our organization, so connecting outside of your organization can help.  

At the end of the day, our competitors make us better, our suppliers make us better—leverage those relationships, ask them a question, because there is knowledge there. Try to absorb as much of that knowledge as you can. 

How would you differentiate formal mentorship from informal mentorship? 

Formal mentorship as well is incredibly important. I have a formal mentor within my organization, and I have one outside of my organization—both in the automotive industry and one outside. Mentors are especially valuable when it comes to larger projects or situations where you can have that dialogue. Having that time and really forming the dialogue for the session you are having with your mentor is incredibly important. 

How has being in the Young Professionals in the Auto care sector (YPA) community helped with your career development? Have you had mentors in the YPA? Have you mentored others?  

Being involved in the YPA has really helped open some doors for people in different parts of the organization, so I think that is truly wonderful. 

I have not done any formal mentoring through the YPA, but a couple of people have called me, and said ‘Hey, I have run into this situation, and I think your perspective could help’, so I think that is pretty cool. 

We have a lot of industry events, which are excellent opportunities for collaborating and informally mentoring each other across the industry. At these events, everyone’s business cards get checked at the door, which I think is good. It does not matter what your position is, what organization you are from—we are all part of the auto care sector, and we are all here to help each other grow and grow the market. 

You recently spoke at a panel at Student Aftermarket Day. For those looking to enter the industry, how do you think mentorship could shape their experience and career development?  

Becoming a mentee is something you should do right out of the gate—as soon as you enter the industry. I think it’s super important to get to know the experts within the industry, try to gain as much of that information as possible, and reach out to as many people as you can.  

I know schedules are busy and you may not get that face time you may be looking for with a VP of an organization, for example, but do not discount other people at other levels of the organization— they know the industry well, and their perspective can help you in your career. 

Aside from your role at UAP, do you do any mentoring on the side? If so, what kind and what is your focus? 

I am part of an organization called Empowering Auto. It looks to change the face of the automotive industry—not just the auto care sector, but the automotive industry across the country—to be more representative of what the actual population is. 

With Empowering Auto, I do a mentorship program. I am mentoring some other women who are trying to either enter the industry or are very new to it. We talk about how to face some challenges that we, as women in the industry, experience, and how to find their voice and confidence in some of their meetings that they are having and where the majority people around that table are probably going to be men. 

The automotive industry is traditionally a men’s world. We want it to be more of a fifty-fifty balance and want women to have a voice at the table. I encourage my mentees do something well—not because you are a woman, but solely to do a better job. Do it better than the person sitting beside you, regardless of gender. 

If someone you knew wanted to become a mentor, what piece of advice would you give them to succeed?  

Be honest and vulnerable. When you are mentoring somebody, I think you must put yourself in their shoes and try to relate to them as much as possible. Be honest about it, if you have run into a similar situation as your mentee, tell them, give them a real-life example! And if you have not, thoroughly walk through what you would do in that situation—not what you think you would do in an ideal world, but what you would truly do. Everything sounds easy in principle, but I think once something happens, it is very different. 

If you are being a mentor, if it is going to be really effective, honesty and vulnerability are key. And as a mentee, that is what I look for. I want my mentor to be vulnerable with me and I try to be as vulnerable as I can with the people who I mentor as well. 

For someone who is just entering the auto care sector and they are a young professional thinking, “Is this for me?” What piece of advice would you give someone to get over that notion and be fully confident in their abilities to succeed? 

Be bold, take risks, and fully dive into the industry. Jump in with both feet and feel confident that this is an exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling industry. Imposter syndrome has been on the rise in young professionals, and I do think when entering an industry, those who feel like they have ‘imposter syndrome’ can hold them back, so having a mentor can be critical in overcoming that.  

There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness, so you have to make sure you stay confident. I think that sometime imposter syndrome is displayed as cockiness, then, unfortunately, they are labeled as someone who is a little bit over-zealous for their role. 

Just keep asking questions—there is no point in hitting your head against the wall and expecting a different result. Stop, ask yourself a question, and think of who might know the answer. 

About UAP Inc. 

UAP Inc. is the leading distributor of automotive parts and replacements for vehicles in Canada. With two divisions, one focusing on auto parts, and the other focusing on heavy vehicle parts, UAP aims to provide parts and accessories for all Canadians.   

About the Young Professionals in the Auto care sector   

Young Professionals in the Auto care sector (YPA) is an Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada) community comprising of young executives, of 45 years or younger, in the Canadian auto care sector. They support the career growth of young professionals by expanding their network and assisting them in becoming a thought leader in Canada’s auto care industry.


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