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Luisa Fernanda Valderrama or The Lesson of Walking Through Thick and Thin

Her transfer in the mechanics has allowed her to break all the schemes that imply breaking into a world of men regardless of looks, opinions, or comments.

The Woman Post | María Consuelo Caicedo Toro

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She felt the discrimination of her friends, who made fun of her because she smelled of gasoline and diesel, not perfume.

If you are a woman whose dreams have been postponed, it will be enough for you to know the story of the Colombian Luisa Fernanda Valderrama for you to make the decision to seek the paths that will lead you to achieve them.

And it is that the protagonist of this space in The Woman Post, from the age of 14 she knew her place in the world, that place where she wanted to be, learn, work, progress, and it was none other than a workshop where she could practice auto mechanics.

At that age, after seeing a classified ad in which a State academic entity (Sena-Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje) offered a course precisely in auto mechanics, she felt her heartbeat in unison with the engine of a truck and, without thinking about it, she took the first step, connected with a neighbor, a senior official of that entity, who was the passport for Luisa to come to the workshops: “My mother was ashamed, she was angry, she tried to dissuade me and reminded me that there were suitable programs for women, but I knew what I wanted.”

Luisa Fernanda continued with her college classes, but she reached heaven when she, hand in hand with the motor instructor, entered workshop number 34 on the first day of October 1979. Her schedule? From 5 in the afternoon to 9 at night, a demanding routine for a teenager who not only attended school but also went to the academy and, in addition, had to walk home because the parents did not have to pay for daily transportation! Quite an odyssey! But it was the most beautiful time of her life!

Her perfume, gasoline, and diesel

Yes! Luisa Fernanda felt the discrimination of her friends more than of her classmates; they made fun of her because she smelled of gasoline and diesel, not perfume, and they asked her if her decision did not embarrass her! She was happy when she learned to drive trucks that transport cars (called “babysitters”) and achieved a technical degree in mechanics.

Fate and her strong will led her to the Colombian Army, where, as a sergeant major, she insisted on maintaining the entity's vehicles. She is the only woman with a career ladder in transportation of that national entity and the first to assume the head of maintenance of the General Command of the Military Forces's automotive fleet. She faced the machismo of her companions and, for discovering some administrative irregularities, they dismissed her but, as the popular adage goes, what she learned no one could take away from her!

Own spaces

Valderrama is not only a mechanic specialist, she is also the mother of two children whom she advised to fight to achieve her goals and who today are employees of renowned companies. She does not want to be a grandmother "because the world is not there to bring children.”

Her trajectory around mechanics has allowed her to break all the schemes that imply breaking into a world of men regardless of looks, opinions, or comments, working with machinery in the scenes of the Cerrejón coal mines in La Guajira, Colombia, agricultural and cargo spaces and repair engines. She has been chief of men mechanics who obey her when Luisa makes it clear to them that she knows what she is doing and what she says: “Many times they put me to the test, like when an operator told me that I could not start a truck and I taught him that it was possible."

Also read: A Look At Initiatives That Break Stereotypes

She never attended university but has the practical authority that experience has given her subordinate and managerial positions in public and private organizations. She knows about spare parts and has become a maintenance strategist "so that the machinery works at a fair cost."

Discriminated

Luisa's struggles have given her credits, important positions, and satisfactions but she has found rocks along the way for being a woman and showing her abilities: “In the maintenance management of a mass transport operator where I recovered many vehicles and lowered maintenance costs, I stepped on the interests of many who made operations slow while the vehicles were authorized to work and at FEMSA they put all the obstacles in my way to access a position of power. They truncated trips, took commissions from her, and forced her to work with a chair that hurt her back. "However, I assumed my responsibilities with professionalism and high-quality results.”

Luisa Fernanda Valderrama thought it was time to assume the reins of her own organization aimed at women who, like her, had a passion for automotive maintenance: "I wanted to help them, all over the world, from pole to pole." There was no company with this profile and that is why on June 7, 2019, she created The American Organization of Leaders in Automotive Maintenance to which the WAM 21 brand belongs, Women in automotive Maintenance twenty-one.

In a year and a half, this enterprising, unwavering and determined woman has generated alliances with public and private entities in Colombia with the support of universities and the National Navy, as well as women's organizations from countries such as Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, the United States and Chile: “We have made 30 agreements, they know us throughout the American continent as well as Europe, Saudi Arabia and Asia. I confess that I have had more support from other nations than from Colombia.”

Always the first

No one would last from the condition of leader of Luisa Valderrama for whom this adjective represents “thinking of others, being a guide, being willing to bet her life for the welfare of the people and the fulfillment of their dreams. That is why I want to open spaces for many women to achieve their goals.”

Her altruism and her tireless work have credited her with a long list of first places as a woman in the articulated truck tractor maintenance department; after-sales service for brands such as Mercedes Benz, John Deere, Chevrolet, Ford trucks, WV and Renault; maintenance manager for mass transport operators of Transmilenio in Bogotá and Metrocali in Cali; support manager for the ground team of the United States Embassy in Bogotá and manager of Automotive Maintenance in Colombia for the multinational FEMSA.

At the end of her interview with The Woman Post, Luisa Fernanda Valderrama shares her inspiring phrase: "The dignity of a person, man or woman, is based on doing what they like and not what is imposed on them."

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