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It all started with a Volkswagen bug.
As a self-described “hippie kid,” Bogi Lateiner always loved VW Beetles and knew she wanted to own one some day. The Queens, New York, native, who grew up in New Jersey, started to read Volkswagen magazines as a teenager in the '90s, but noticed the only time women were featured was when they were in bikinis or high heels.
“I took that as a challenge,” says Bogi. “ I thought, not only would I own a bug – I was going to restore one and build it myself.”
Bogi took auto shop in high school and ended up fulfilling her goal, building and completing her bug from junior year of high school until her first year of college. Little did she know her first foray into the automotive world would plant the seeds for what is a nationally lauded career today, including roles as host of the television show All Girls Garage and owner of technician shop 180 Degrees Automotive in Phoenix.
Though Bogi felt motivated by the confidence she found working on her own car, she headed to college thinking she'd go to law school shortly after. She says because there weren't a lot of opportunities in the technician world that were presented to her, she had no idea that working on cars was a viable career option.
She continued to work on cars in college, though, helping her friends with their vehicles. While studying for a double major in women's studies and pre-law at Oberlin College, she recalls a transformative conversation she had with a college advisor.
“He asked me why I wanted to go to law school, and I stared at him and said, 'I don't,” Bogi says. “I told him about this harebrained idea about becoming a mechanic and opening my own shop.”
After expressing the need she had been feeling to work in a tactile trade instead of continuing in academia, Bogi headed online to research technician schools. As someone who worked in the legal realm of domestic violence and rape counseling, Bogi knew she wanted to continue on a path where she could make an impact on the world, just in a different way.
Bogi stumbled upon Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Phoenix in her online search for technician trade schools. The great reviews, comprehensive curriculum and professionalism of the school impressed her.
“Since I was still very inexperienced, I wanted a school that would be a ground-up curriculum, that would go from the basics through the advanced and would be an environment where I would be accepted,” Bogi says.
Bogi went on to graduate from the core automotive program in 2001 before taking Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training programs for Ford Accelerated Credential Training and BMW Service Technician Education Program. She says the training she received at UTI laid the foundation for her role as a shop owner and national technician figure today.
“For the most part, the teachers and professors were fantastic,” Bogi says. “I found my tribe of other students who were supportive and cool and who didn't care I was this odd duck. It was the very beginning of me learning how to survive in this industry as a minority, because you're constantly switching classes and dealing with different professors and different groups of guys. I got way more support than I did dissent. UTI gave me the solid foundation, basics, hands-on experience and theory in all the different areas of cars.”
Bogi's career has seen her go from working as an apprentice at a BMW shop after graduation, to working at dealerships in New York. She moved back to Phoenix around 2004 and was working for a BMW dealership for a few years when she felt that familiar longing for something more. This time, she knew she wanted to take the leap to business owner, so she could have more opportunities to work directly with clients and inspire others in the technician world.
“Completely terrified and not knowing what I was doing at all, I handed in my resignation,” Bogi says. “I started my business out of my driveway. I knew I was really passionate about working more closely with people and working with cars, and I wanted to merge those things.”
She eventually moved her business from her driveway to a small shop about a year-and-a-half later, then to a bigger shop, and eventually to her current location, where she has been the past six years.
For the past seven years, she has been a host of All Girls Garage, a female-centric technician show on Velocity Channel. Bogi also is a national speaker and sits on the board for TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting the benefits of a career as a technician.
Amid everything that keeps her busy, Bogi still finds time to inspire other women in the automotive world. She teaches a monthly car care class strictly for women. She also spearheaded a 1957 Chevy rebuild project, called Chevy Montage, which was completed in 2017 with the help of 90 women from 23 states and was featured at the automotive specialty products trade event SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Bogi also teaches advanced classes at her warehouse, like mechanical, welding and pinstriping classes. She says there are plans to start a new build project by early 2019.
Bogi always knew she wanted to help other people, and today she gets to do that through her love for cars. As a teenager, she says she felt intimidated in auto shops or in her school's mechanic classes. Now she has created a space that empowers women and every customer who comes through the door.
“I want to make sure no one ever felt like I did as a kid, that there was this target on my head,” Bogi says. “I wanted to create a space that would be different for women and maybe be a part of changing women's relationships with their cars. Learning about cars for me was really empowering, so I hope I can share that with other women.”
Bogi says her work as a mechanic is just as challenging as any other academic pursuit, and she hopes to contribute to elevating the reputation of what a mechanic's work entails.
“To be an expert technician, you have to be a rocket scientist,” Bogi says. “Cars are changing so rapidly, and they're so complex and technologically advanced. You have to be incredibly intelligent to work on them. It's analytical thinking.”
As stereotypes about the industry evolve, Bogi says more women might be drawn to this constantly stimulating trade, too.
“The outdated stereotypes about the industry and outdated stereotypes about women in the industry are tied together,” Bogi says. “If we can change the stereotypes and show the world this is a professional career that requires a lot of critical thought and is a respectable industry, suddenly it's not such an inappropriate place to be.”
Learn more about Bogi at www.bogisgarage.com.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.