A collision of kismet and opportunity: Women building careers in auto care 

As part of International Women’s Day 2024, AIA Canada is recognizing women from across the auto care industry, highlighting their experiences, achievements, and success in their careers. Throughout her career, Shannon Tardiff has championed women in the industry, promoted inclusivity, and aims to show why working in the auto care industry is so rewarding. 

Shannon Tardiff, director of field operations, CSN Collision

As recently as 20 years ago, the collision industry had just begun taking steps towards embracing more diversity in its workforce. Shannon Tardiff, Director of Field Operations, Canada, at CSN Collision, recounts first-hand her auspicious journey and growth within the industry. 

First contact 

As it is for many people, Shannon’s foray into the industry was by happenstance. Although her interest in trades was born in high school, at that time, she was told to pursue a career that would use her intellect. A disappointment at the time; however, that (mis)direction helped her path develop organically. While in post-secondary school, visiting Canadian Tire to purchase a drill bit led to a job offer selling auto parts. 

Career acceleration 

Selling tires to a customer at Canadian Tire got Shannon an offer to join Midas, where she began her role as an Office Manager. In addition to her administrative job, she helped on the floor with oil changes. Soon after, Shannon ended up getting signed up for the automotive service technician apprenticeship and became a licensed technician.  

It did not take long for Shannon to become interested in understanding and diagnosing the computerized aspects of automobiles, leading to her specializing in trim and electrical. 

Through a chain of events, Shannon eventually transitioned off the shop floor and into a collision centre, where she became a junior estimator. 

“Despite not knowing collision, I was excited to learn from industry mentors who taught me all about the body shop business in relation to its operational activities. Five years later, I accepted an offer for a manager position at a CSN Collision shop.” says Tardiff 

Increasing momentum 

Working as a manager at a CSN Collision centre was a melting pot from her past professional experience and a significant accelerator in her career. From there, Shannon joined the CSN Collision corporate team as a Field Operations Manager (FOM) serving the Eastern Ontario region. The FOM position created motivation to assist shops in overcoming their obstacles by combining industry best practices with the knowledge she had acquired over time.  

Applying for a General Manager position in the company challenged Shannon to create FOCUS—a program that allows the field operations team to have more focused conversations with CSN Licensees to support them in the growth and performance of their business, helping them achieve their goals. 

“Since its implementation, the entire corporate team has adopted FOCUS as a business tool. We are currently on the third iteration of improving its offering. FOCUS equally exposed a need for shop development, ultimately leading to CSN improving and creating new training and support systems for our network.” says Tardiff. 

In 2023, Shannon was promoted to Director of Field Operations thanks to the leadership and guidance of her mentors and the tremendous efforts of the Field Operations Team. 

“When hiring, I never look for a specific gender but instead for fit. Nonetheless, three out of five Field Operations Managers at CSN Collision are women. Seeing more women working in this industry is heartening, and I am humbled by the opportunity to mentor and elevate them.” 

Changing gears 

Over the last four years, Shannon has participated with the Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada) in several capacities. 

“I joined the Young Professionals in the Auto care sector (YPA) in 2021. Through that, I participated in multiple events, such as Student Aftermarket Day, which I found rewarding as it involved speaking to young people intrigued by the automotive field.” says Tardiff. 

“At CSN we are focusing on how to attract students who are yet to consider the automotive aftermarket as a career option. Consequently, my next step is to support CSN’s People and Culture team by locating and attracting talent to our industry.” 

There are several great avenues within the collision space. Whether an artist or analyst, you have a place in the industry. Your talent could match the skills required in vehicle repair or painting, assembling or disassembling, writing or processing repairs, or serving our great customers. There is something for everyone within this industry, especially with advancements in technology. 

Co-op apprenticeship programs are a great way to learn all facets of the business. From that point on, it depends on the path you choose to take. Find a shop willing to invest in your growth and personal development, and you will have the freedom to explore the options available. Another education channel is I-CAR Canada training, a continuous learning platform that keeps your knowledge of vehicle repair up to date. 

Starting at the bottom provides an understanding of how each piece fits into the puzzle of the collision centre, thereby making you a well-rounded asset to the business. All you need is the right mindset, which will allow you to set your trajectory for your career progression. 

About Shannon Tardiff 

Shannon Tardiff is the Director of Field Operations at CSN Collision. Throughout her career, Shannon has been involved in the industry and with AIA Canada to help drive innovation. In the past, she has participated in Hill Day, advocating for the industry, and she currently sits on the CCIF Steering Committee, playing a key role in maintaining the success of the collision sector.