Glen Poy-Wing: An Unexpected Education
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
OAKLAND — As a young man living in Trinidad and Tobago, the last thing Glen Poy-Wing expected when he took his car in for maintenance was to receive a crash course in auto repair. “My uncle owned an auto repair shop, so I brought my car to him to have some work done,” he remembers. “He said, ‘Sure, no problem—the tools are over there. I’ll tell you how to do it, but I’m not going to do it for you.’ At first I was a little upset, but it wasn’t long before I found myself really enjoying it.”
While Glen quickly gained knowledge by frequenting his uncle’s shop on the weekends, he soon realized there was much more for him to learn. “My uncle was a self-taught mechanic—he was very good at his job, but I had so many questions that he couldn’t answer. I realized if I wanted to pursue automotive work as a career, I needed to have a more formal education, so I decided to go to school and study automotive engineering.” After earning his degree at Robert College in New York, Glen returned to his home country and opened his first auto repair shop.
After returning to the United States just a few years later, Glen immediately set about establishing himself in the local industry by working at a couple of repair shops in the East Bay Area. It didn’t take long for him to notice a disturbing trend. “I found that most shops had a tendency to dictate things to their customers rather than explain things or give them options,” he says. “In contrast, my view was that a shop should be focused on educating customers and including them in the repair process.” With this vision in mind, Glen struck out on his own and founded Oakland Auto Works in 1991.
As a resident of El Sobrante (where he lives with his wife, Elizabeth), Glen says he appreciates the cultural diversity that characterizes the Bay Area. “In the Caribbean, it’s a big melting pot, with all different types of people living together. I think that’s why the Bay Area has always felt a lot like home to me.”
Outside of work, Glen engages in a variety of active pastimes, from go-cart racing to cross training for athletic competition. “I’ve always wanted to be a triathlete, and I recently took the step of joining a local triathlon club,” he says. “I’m looking forward to competing in my first triathlon very soon.” In addition to expanding his physical abilities, Glen is broadening his artistic horizons by learning to play the steelpan, which is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. When he’s not occupied with one of his many hobbies, he enjoys spending time with his daughter, Danielle, and granddaughter, Kya.
When asked what his future retirement might look like, Glen says he’ll continue to find ways to stay active. “I know people who have retired, and all they do is hang around and relax, which I don’t think I could do. If I quit doing auto repair, I would have to find something else to keep me busy.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1969 Austin America.
Q: What’s your dream car?
A: One that I would build myself.
Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: The birth of my daughter.
Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Any type of nut—peanuts, cashews, you name it.
Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
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A: My remote-controlled car.