August '19

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14 • RV PRO • August 2019 rv-pro.com Sharonne Lee RV TECHNICAL INSTITUTE SENIOR DIRECTOR, EDUCATION RV INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION Sharonne Lee was only 20-years-old when she began her career with the RV Industry Association. "I didn't know anything about the RV industry before I started here," Lee laughs. Some 30 years later and she's still with RVIA, but has recently undertaken a new challenge within the organization, making a move from Reston, Va., to Elkhart, Ind., where she is the senior director of the RV Technical Institute. "Five years ago, when RVIA decided to open a satellite office, I volunteered to help open it," she says. "I love it. Getting to be right here, I'm much more in touch with our members." Starting out in the Standards Department with Bruce Hopkins as her boss, she spent 25 of her 30 years at RVIA learning from him. "He helped guide me and show me what I could do," Lee says. "He gave me the freedom to learn through my own experience while helping to guide me. I credit him a lot with helping me." Lee has spent her time at RVIA making the industry better for everyone that's a part of it. One of her major career accomplishments is digitalizing the inspection process and manual for manufacturers. "For several years while I was there, they did everything with paper and pencil. When we computerized it, we cut out a whole lot of data entry. Seven to 10 years ago we went to iPads. I worked with programmers to get that written and in place." Now, as the senior director for the new RV Technical Institute, she has the opportunity to rewrite the way technician training and credentialing works and says she hopes it will be a big success. As for being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Lee says she's never felt treated any differently, and her advice for other women is to not create barriers for themselves. "Don't let any perceived barriers hold you back. Something may have in the past, but things are changing," Lee says. "I think that everybody involved in the industry has a great passion for it or they wouldn't have stayed. Not just RVIA, but many companies in the industry. While companies are competitors when it comes to selling products to customers, they're not competitors when it comes to doing something to better the industry. They're friends and it's very inspiring." While Lee has already played a major role in shaping standards in the industry, she has no plans to slow down. "It has not felt like 30 years because I'm in an industry where I love the people and I love the concept of the whole RV lifestyle. It's a great industry and before you know it, it's all flown past." Lee says she jokes all the time about retiring but realistically doesn't know when that would be. She says she still has much she wants to accomplish. "I want to see the success of RVTI really elevate the position of an RV service technician," she says. "We, as an industry, have not moved into the same era as the auto industry, where service is the bread and butter and not the sale. It's the reverse in the RV industry and that could be detrimental. We have the opportunity to change that. I want to see that before my time is up."

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