Councils & Networks

SheIsSEMA Spotlight: Kay Therkelsen of Bonneville High School

Kay TherkelsenThe SEMA Businesswomen's Network (SBN) has named Kay Therkelsen, instructor and mentor at Bonneville High School, as the network's newest #SheIsSEMA spotlight member. 

Get to know Therkelsen in her interview with SEMA News below. 

SEMA News: What do you enjoy most about working at your current company? 

Kay Therkelsen: I enjoy watching people smile and providing unique experiences.

SN: What is the most challenging part of your business or job?  

KT: Quite honestly, managing my numerous lists of things to do! Organization can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you have a variety of tasks that all seem like a top priority. Learning to manage my time and focus on the areas that need immediate attention can sometimes be challenging for me. But every day is an opportunity to learn and grow. If I cross off one item on each list a day, I have succeeded.

SN: How many years have you been in the industry, and what was your first industry job?  

KT: I was born and raised in the automotive industry. I grew up at the drag strip, sand dunes and the lake. My parents owned their own high-performance automotive and marine business for 35 years.

SN: What three qualities got you to where you are today?  

KT: Being raised in and working for my parents at their high-performance automotive and marine business most definitely assisted me in where I am today. Being exposed to a world of speed with attendance at many forms of motorsports got me hooked.

Staying involved in the industry through coordinating my own car shows and events, as well as attending as many race events as I can, also helps and has kept me in the loop. My circle of friends includes many automotive industry business owners, experts and racers that keep me up-to-date and heavily involved. I am surrounded by many amazing and talented men.

SN: Being a woman in the industry, what have been your biggest challenges and accomplishments? 

KT: Even though my dad owned his own automotive business, I never acquired the skills to work on my own vehicle. My dad's knowledge and time were all put into my big brother, and rightfully so. I can talk my way through a general automotive conversation, but quite honestly, I couldn't tell you all the things about how the car works.

Most people assume I am full of automotive knowledge and can build a car from the ground up. Today, at the age of 54 and working alongside high school students, I have found myself eager to learn and am enjoying every bit of information thrown at me. Not having full knowledge like most men that I usually find myself surrounded by can sometimes be challenging, but I have found that sharing my lack of knowledge while demonstrating my eagerness to learn has lessened the amount of harassment I receive on the daily, which I am so ok with as I tend to torment men already. My intentions are always good and a laugh or joke amid any conversation can make for a good time or lead you to new friends.

SN: Who are your role models or mentors in the industry?  

KT: The influence of my parents showed me the way. I believe they would be proud of me knowing I am working in an automotive shop, sharing my knowledge and helping wherever and however I can with the program. I feel right at home whenever I step into a garage or any racetrack, for that matter. The year 2022 was my first time at SEMA and I am looking forward to many more.

SN: What is the best career advice you have received?  

KT: Find what makes you happy and do more of that!

SN: Have you always wanted to work in the automotive industry?  

KT: As a young girl, I always wanted to be a schoolteacher. I never thought I could do such a thing in the automotive industry but here I am, and I am loving every minute of it. I think the automotive industry was made for me. Even with the influence of my parents' business, I still take it with pride. I love the sounds of a healthy engine, doing burnouts and I have acquired my own need for speed. I am right where I belong.

SN: Who was the most influential person on your career/goals?  

KT: Both of my parents, Otto and Linda Therkelsen, may they rest in peace.

Fill out a #SheIsSEMA spotlight form to submit a self-nomination or nominate a colleague and highlight how you or she is contributing to the specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are automatically eligible to be considered for SBN's #SheIsSEMA Woman of the Year award, featured on SBN's social media, SEMA News and recognized on the website.