Saving Our Stories: Women Crushing It Wednesday
1) What is your name(s) or nickname(s) that you go by?
My name is Ally Chisenhall-Harding.
2) What is your professional background?
I graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2015 with a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Throughout college, I spent my free time working on cancer research at the Wirtz Laboratory and then DNA nanotechnology at the Schulman Lab, both Johns Hopkins' labs. Immediately after college, I worked at the National Institutes of Health in a stem cell mammary lab in the cancer institute. I decided the lab setting wasn't for me and wanted to make a change. First, I interned at McCormick Spice Company for almost a year and got a great first experience in the more industrial side of chemical engineering. From there, I was offered a full time position at BAE Systems, working in explosives manufacturing as a chemical engineer. This was a wonderful experience that gave me a great foundation for the job that I have today. Currently, I am working as a design and manufacturing engineer at Vintage Air.
3) What industry do you work in now?
I have been working for two years in the automotive industry, but I also grew up in it. I spent my childhood going to car shows and working at our facility during my summer breaks. I think I started working here around age 5 when I was answering phones at the front desk and typing labels up on our typewriter before the world was as “digital” as it is now.
4) What is your business name and how long have you been in business?
I work for my family business, Vintage Air. My father opened the business in 1976. Today, I work closely with him and our engineering team on a daily basis.
5) What challenges have you had to overcome within your industry?
Personally, the biggest challenge has been breaking into the automotive industry as a female engineer who had a solid engineering background but had never looked underneath the hood of a car. I went to shows forever, I knew all of the brands and many of the people, but I didn’t know the technical side of the automotive world. It’s been two and a half years, and I honestly cannot believe how much I have learned. I feel like a completely different person than who I was when I started. That being said, I have a lot to learn and am constantly learning new things every day, which I love. You never want to be the person who knows so much about something that you think you can’t grow anymore. There are always new things to learn because the industry and the technology is always changing. If you think you’ve got it all down, you need to try harder to know what you don’t know, because I guarantee there is always something new to learn.
6) What kind of experience can a new customer expect when buying from you?
For people who have never put AC into their vintage or custom cars, they may not know anything but the way they have driven it. Once you drive your car with air conditioning in it, it changes the entire experience. I love spending my summer days driving my ’57 Corvette with my husband, but I’ll tell you what, if it didn’t have air conditioning, I don’t think I could convince him to go on long drives with me. It’s about making your hobby comfortable, and also convincing your friends and family members to join you for the ride.
7) What kind of products and services do you provide?
We manufacture air conditioners and other related accessories like serpentine drive systems and cooling fans for street rods, sport trucks, performance cars, and just about anything else you may build. We sell both direct and through a large network of distributors both domestically and internationally.
8) What is your favorite product to sell and why?
Recently, I helped to develop a new SPAL brushless fan kit. As someone who experienced life without it, I can say it is honestly a huge game changer. I had a much smaller fan on my ’39 Ford and it overheated all the time in traffic. It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to drive – it was always a stressful situation. After we finished the development of the kit, we used my car to test it out. I cannot explain how much easier it is to drive now. I don’t have to worry anymore about being stuck in traffic and the car stopping in the middle of the road. It’s just a game changer, so I’d say that is a really fun one to see people use and get the same response as I had when I started using it.
9) How can people buy from you?
We have a few ways you can reach us. You can go through a local distributor of Vintage Air, or you can call us directly. If you aren’t sure who distributes our products in your area, you can browse through local automotive supplier’s websites or just call us directly. Our sales line is on our website along with our sales hours. https://www.vintageair.com/
10) What are your social media platforms where people can follow your journey?
I’m an Instagram fanatic, so anyone can definitely follow me @allychiii. I like to post about cars, engineering, traveling (in a pre-COVID-19 world, but it’ll resume again I’m sure), my cats, my friends, and my family. Our company Instagram, @vintageair_, also has tons of fun content all the time to follow.
11) What do you want your customers to take away from following your journey or buying your product(s)?
Vintage Air was started on the idea that our hobbies needed to be fun and comfortable for us and those joining us for the ride. We still have the same goals in mind, and are always pushing the envelope of engineering technologies in achieving these same goals but now on an even higher level of performance. Every kit we make is engineered down to the smallest details. Between that, our ISO-certified processes, and the quality of the parts we use, we provide you with what you really need to get the performance you are looking for.
12) What advice would you give young women who are interested in going into your industry?
Don’t let people scare you away from doing what you love because you don’t look or act like the typical “automotive” or “engineering” person. You will certainly face your fair share of adversity, but no one ever got better or stronger from things being easy. And, when you do start to succeed and progress forward, don’t forget to support the other women around you, too. We need more of us doing this and the only way the numbers will grow is if we support each other.
13) Is there anything that you would like to add?
If there are any people who read this that are interested in learning more about engineering or the automotive industry, please have them reach out. I would love to talk with them, answer questions, and help them figure out how to break in to this industry.
Final Thoughts from Shenel
I met Ally during a Girl Power Hour networking event at the beginning of the year before COVID-19 shut everything down. Her story was amazing and so inspiring. It made me realize that I need to start learning more about topics that interest me. Ally's journey of taking action towards topics that sparked her curiosity rather than thinking "this isn't for me" has allowed her to diversify her knowledge and gain experience in industries that most people dream of. I hope Ally's story motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new. Please share this story with young women and men so they too can be inspired. Make sure to follow Ally's journey at instagram.com/allychiii/and instagram.com/vintageair_/
(Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are that of the owner. Any purchases made are between Vintage Air and the buyer. No commission is made from featuring this business on my blog).