By: Awa Conteh
Welcome to another exciting episode of our Women in STEM column, as we spotlight Ms. Ida Faal, a remarkable woman who is breaking barriers and making significant contributions to the automotive industry and has been instrumental in revolutionizing the automotive industry.
Our guest has defied stereotypes and risen to the top of her profession in a male-dominated field through her unparalleled expertise and passion for her work. Join us as we delve into how Ms. Faal’s innovative thinking and dedication drive advancements in automotive technology, improve vehicle safety and make our roads safer for everyone. Wear your reading glasses and get ready to be inspired by the incredible achievements of our featured specialist in Vehicle Diagnostic and Fault Finding.
Ida Faal is an Automotive Technician and the Director of FitaFaal Autos, an online car solutions center that connects the automotive industry, professionals, and the general public. She is a Mandela Washington Fellow, an AU/CIEFFA alumna, and the founder of the ClockTvet Foundation, where she passionately advocates for and trains young people, particularly young women, in vehicle diagnostics and fault detection. She was named one of Africa’s 100 most influential female engineers by the Africa Engineering Board in 2021. Africa Engage awarded her the West Africa Positive Role Model Champion in 2022. In addition, she was named one of the TOP50 Rising Motherland Moguls in 2023 by She.Leads.Africa.
At the outset of her journey, this young woman had her sights set on becoming a successful businesswoman, driven by her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation. However, she transitioned from her initial business aspirations into the STEM field, where she honed her skills in Vehicle Diagnostic and Fault Finding. Through dedication, hands-on experience, and relentless pursuit of expertise, she discovered her true calling in an industry where women were underrepresented but where her unique perspective and talents would make a significant impact. Today, she stands as a shining example of how unexpected detours can lead to fulfilling careers, and she continues to inspire young women to explore the limitless opportunities within STEM.
“I remember constantly telling my mom that I want to have a ‘Narr’ shop since I’m a ‘Narr.’ She would laugh about it and tell me you can be a banker since you love counting cash because she wanted me to become a Banker. Now, being a diagnostic specialist, owning a motor repair center, and trying to digitalize The Gambia’s automobile industry, my childhood dreams of becoming a businesswoman are slowly paving their way”, she told The Alkamba Times.
After graduating high school, Ms. Faal attended a Business Training Center and studied ICM in Business Studies to fulfill her mother’s wishes. She continued hunting for work after finishing her course but to no effect. She spent a year doing housework before meeting Aunty Isatou, who used to import used spare parts from Europe to The Gambia. Ida found it inspiring to see Isatou direct containers and supplies spare parts dealers from her rented shop in the neighborhood, as she fell in love with Isatou’s energy and business line. Curious about The Gambia’s high unemployment rate, Ida began researching and discovered that many young people are interested in white-collar occupations, leaving a large gap within technical areas. This inspired her to seek a career in TVET, to one day become Aunty Isatou. She felt she had to start somewhere, so she became an auto mechanic technician. After discussing her ideas with her mother, the former chuckled and told her such would never happen in her house. Ida struggled to persuade her mother to approve her career decision because the former had the misconception that she had never seen a female mechanic and that it was not a job for girls. Nonetheless, Ms. Faal showed determination for her chosen career, finally gaining her mother’s backing, now a vocal supporter of TVET.
Now and then, a challenge occurs in automobile diagnostics that pushes the bounds of competence and commitment. Ms. Faal recalls a challenging diagnostic situation when one of her clients called to say she wanted to come in for routine maintenance, but her vehicle wouldn’t start.
She then arranged for the vehicle to be brought over. When the vehicle arrived in the garage, she and her crew determined that the ignition coils were not providing an adequate spark, resulting in incomplete burning of the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. This can result in cylinder misfiring, backfiring in the exhaust system, loss of power, poor acceleration, and low fuel mileage. They replaced her ignition and removed the faults, and she was a satisfied customer. This case was a strong adversary, with symptoms and concerns that confused even seasoned specialists. However, Ms. Faal’s unwavering commitment to mastering every detail of the vehicle led to a breakthrough that solved the mystery and demonstrated women’s incredible resilience and problem-solving prowess in the automotive industry. This is a story of triumph in the face of adversity, highlighting the indomitable spirit of a true trailblazer.
The lack of equal opportunities, biased promotions, or limited professional development and training access can hinder women’s career progression in male-dominated industries. Ms. Faal explores online courses and e-learning platforms that offer training in specific automotive technologies and diagnostic tools. Platforms like Garage Gurus often have courses by industry professionals and experts focusing on the latest technological advancements. Ishe also follows renowned diagnostic tool manufacturers like Bosch, Snap-on, Launch, or Autel to stay informed about their latest product releases and updates.
“To overcome these challenges, actively seek growth opportunities and advocate for yourself. Request equal access to training, development programs, and challenging assignments. Additionally, find mentors within the organization who can guide and support your career advancement. Building a strong professional network can provide access to hidden opportunities or potential sponsors who can advocate for your progress”, she said.
Ms. Faal believes that Gambian motor mechanics intuitions and organizations should promote STEM education among women and girls, particularly in vehicle diagnostics, as well as outreach programs that specifically target motor-mechanic technicians to offer them training on vehicle diagnostics, as steps the industry can take to encourage more diversity and inclusion in STEM-related professions like vehicle diagnostics.
She also suggests that organizations establish mentoring programs that connect aspiring individuals with professionals in the field and create platforms, events, and spaces for networking and community building. Our inspiring STEM feminine also believes in increasing the visibility of diverse role models who can inspire and guide those considering a career in vehicle diagnostics, addressing biases and stereotypes within the industry, cultivating a culture of respect and equality, and raising awareness about unconscious bias. Diverse perspectives can be recognized and exploited to create innovation by building inclusive settings.
As a vehicle diagnostic specialist, Ms. Faal plays a critical role in ensuring vehicle safety, reliability, and performance. She contributes to automotive systems’ overall functionality and efficiency by diagnosing and resolving issues. Knowing that her work directly impacts the lives of drivers and passengers is a strong motivator for her, and being a role model for young women in the motor mechanic industry gives her the excitement of offering opportunities for continuous learning and personal growth.
Our auto mechanic trailblazer believes women’s future in auto diagnostics and defect discovery is bright. We can continue to pave the way for women to excel in these industries by building inclusive settings, giving support and opportunities, and challenging cultural conventions. This will drive good change and unlock the full potential of our collective ability.