CARS REVIEW

How I Landed My Dream Job at Car and Driver

if you could ask andré idzikowski how i got here (car test drive editor and driver), he would tell you a story about a four-year-old girl playing dress-up wearing her mother’s high heels. she would tell you that she stopped by that girl’s house to say hello to her parents and that the precocious four-year-old asked for a ride in the bright red ferrari that she was driving. more or less from that moment on, she was over for me. I really liked cars, and André fed the flame by taking me for rides as often as he could.

at the time, andré had the job that is now my responsibility: scheduling service vehicles, maintaining cars long-term, managing the road warrior team, and organizing 10best. but andré had a simpler way of describing his work. he was the car’s babysitter and the “children’s” driver. the editors were always messing with the c/d fleet, and andré believed that it was his responsibility to solve such problems.

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when i turned 16, andré started taking me to the car and driver headquarters at 2002 hogback road in ann arbor, michigan. I started out as a road warrior in 1996 during top 10 tests and quickly discovered the joy of driving new cars. my male friends at school loved me and hated me at the same time. To impress my Jaguar-loving car teacher, André drove C/D’s long-term X-Type to school so I could show it off. andré began to introduce me to all aspects of his work. we went to press days together at the detroit auto show. when I was still a teenager, he introduced me to the PR representatives of almost every car manufacturer.

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André loved to teach, and what I learned from him shaped me. the first thing he taught me was to drive a car. Now, I’m not talking about checking blind spots, or learning the right-of-way at a four-way stop, or getting a driver’s license. he had already done that. I mean driving a car like I had no choice but to keep up and keep up with a bunch of c/d editors or risk being left behind. André understood the importance of using his turn signals, and as he deftly moved from one lane to the next on the highway, he always hit his turn signal once. just once. if you asked him about it, he’d say, “it’s not my fault if they didn’t see it.” I learned to drive at school, but I learned to drive in the car and the driver.

André’s lessons were not limited to the work at hand. it also taught me the value of wearing pantyhose. yes, pantyhose When I started going to car shows, he introduced me to some kind of dress code. he suggested that he wear pantyhose and not have bare legs or leggings, because, as he said, tights were for eight-year-olds. andré also encouraged me to speak out in a male-dominated industry. When I was young, I learned about sexism and ageism, but André always made sure that I knew that he had as much right to be there as anyone else. it was okay to be young; it was okay to be a woman. I was able to prove myself and he gave me the confidence to do it.

at the office, andré reveled in his fatherly role as car caretaker. He would warn road warriors and editors alike with “be careful out there. It’s never you I worry about” or “don’t trick this car.” if you did something wrong, he would point and wave his index finger and little finger in your direction. his phone calls with his family were infamous among the employees. always exasperated with his parents, he could be heard swearing in “frolish”, a hybrid language he spoke with his French mother and his Polish father. There were also his calls to the road warriors to pick up his breakfast, McDonald’s pancakes and sausages, or his lunch, a muscular big-kid boy.

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He spoke less about his decades-long fight with leukemia. during a battle, andré went back to school to get master’s degree from her and swore to my mother that she would graduate before my older brother graduated from university. andré did, of course. Courageous, strong-willed, and passionate, he was rarely fazed by adversity. He was in a few serious car accidents that took a toll on his body, but despite cancer and crashes, he persisted with a wry smile and a great story.

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in andré’s 24 years at car and driver, he came to define the role of road test editor. More than half a dozen people have held the title between his tenure and my hiring, and the car and driver moved from those old digs in the road over a decade ago. however, his name still echoes in these halls. While not quite the household name that Csaba Csere, Patrick Bedard, Brock Yates, and John Phillips are to C/D readers, André Idzikowski is a legend among kids who were so fascinated with cars and magazines that they became part of everything.

André died in 2007, finally taken by leukemia at the age of 47. he had left c/d a year earlier, taking with me a lifetime of the wisdom he imparted. I went on to manage press fleets and product launches for auto manufacturers, then spent six years outside of the auto industry. but when you really love cars, like andré did, like i do, there is no better job than one in car and driver. I don’t just want to drive cars. I want to compare, dissect, evaluate and discuss them. so, after 12 years, I am back where it all began for me. andré took me back.

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andré helped set the course of my life. all the knowledge, experiences and friendships I found in this industry were thanks to him. I’m here because he thought that a four-year-old girl deserved to be here as much as anyone else. in her memory, I will make sure my five-year-old daughter knows that the possibility of following the same path is there if she wants it. If she decides to do something else, I guarantee she’ll at least know about cars. her education is already underway. A ride of hers with her has her spotting and calling mustangs, corvettes, and chargers. she prompts me to “do that vroom-vrooming again!”

but now I’m the practice test editor, which means I also have kids to take care of and miles to cover. If you’re on the highway and see a car changing lanes with a last-second turn signal tick, you know you’ve come across a disciple of the legendary andré idzikowski.

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