An interview with one of RED Driving Schools youngest teachersBy RED Driving Instructors
What we want to be when we grow up often changes as we make the transition from teenager to adult. The dreams of becoming an ‘astronaut’, ‘rock star’ or ‘jet pilot’ are usually long gone, replaced with something else we discover along the way. But not for 24-year-old Demi Gamba, who knew from an early age that she wanted to be a driving instructor.
“I’ve got qualifications in fashion design and furniture design, but I wanted to be a driving instructor,” she laughs. “Since the age of 17, I was a really good driver. I passed my theory with 50 out of 50 and I passed my practical test first time – and, apparently, women are supposed to be the worst drivers!”
After starting out in retail (“I worked in a shop before, on minimum wage, 36 hours a week, and hardly paying my bills at the end of it”), Demi decided it was time to take her career into her own hands. “I trained with RED after seeing the adverts on telly. They offer you your course fees back the longer you stay with them.”
So what’s the best bit about being a driving instructor?
“I like meeting new people”, she says, matter-of-factly. “You learn things about other people. I’m interested in seeing how people live, while I’m teaching them how to drive. In my old job I felt like a goldfish; I went to work, dealt with customers and went home again. With driving, I get to teach a different topic every day. Every lesson is different, every pupil is a different conversation.”
And when a learner driver passes their test?
“That’s the biggest buzz. The achievement at the end of it, when they pass their test – it’s like a proud mum moment. They’re so happy. I remember what it feels like to pass your test – it was like Christmas! I get that feeling knowing that they’ve got that feeling.”
Despite having Christmas come several times a year, Demi maintains it’s not just the passes that mean a lot. The biggest payoff comes from helping to equip pupils with lifelong skills while teaching them the importance of safety and security.
“Helping people to overcome their confidence issues is an equally worthwhile part of the job,” she says. “Some people come to me and say, ‘I’m really nervous, I’ve never driven a car before’, and I say, ‘don’t worry, I’ll talk you through it’.
Then, at the end of a lesson, I always ask, ‘how did you find that?’, and the response is usually, ‘I can’t believe I managed to do that’. To me, that’s when I’ve achieved something.”
“Well, I had one pupil come to me and she’d failed her test, like, six times,” she says. “I got her in the car and she was actually a really good driver. It was just building her confidence back up. She ended up passing with me with two minors.”
While the thought of managing a business at just 24 years old might seem daunting, Demi says it was easier than she thought. Being young even helped her kick-start her career.
She explains, “I already know a lot of my pupils or their siblings. I think that’s how I’ve managed to build myself up quite quickly without advertising. A lot of it is word of mouth. I’m not just a young
person’s driving instructor, though. I deal with a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s – all different age groups.
“Someone contacted me to say they wanted to learn with me because my pupils looked like they enjoyed learning with me,” she says. “I took that with great pride. Someone who’s not even in the car with me yet! And a lot of the time, after dropping someone off, I’ll get a text saying ‘thanks again, you’re a lovely person, good luck’, and that shows that they’ve really enjoyed learning with me.”
But with so many driving school franchises to choose from in the UK, was it difficult to know who to train with?
“RED is so successful,” says Demi. “It has around 1,200 driving instructors, so it’s the biggest driving school in Britain. It also has all these celebs that want to work with it, such as Nina Nesbitt and Maisie Williams – that shows how good RED is.” Is there a celebrity in mind that would be welcome on the RED Driving School books? “Bradley Cooper,” she says, without a beat.
So, aside from the benefits of being your own boss, the financial freedom and the reward that comes with having a meaningful career, are there any perks to driving with RED?
“You get franchise-free holidays with RED – you can take two full weeks where you don’t pay your car franchise fee, or one full week and three half weeks – and, for every year you’re with them, you get an extra day. I’m off on holiday soon for three weeks.”
On the subject of holidays, a little birdie told us something about a jaunt to Monaco...
“Ha! Yeah, I recently won a competition with RED to go to Monaco,” she laughs. “What a great opportunity that was. A total once-in-a-lifetime trip. I’ll never forget it. I loved walking into the test centre and saying ‘I’m going to Monte Carlo next week’. That was definitely a perk.”
With more and more people thinking of changing lanes in their career, are there any words of advice for someone thinking about becoming a driving instructor?
“Oh, I’d say you need a lot of patience to do this job.” She pauses. “And just being a nice person helps!”
Demi Gamba offers driving lessons in Kirkcaldy and its surrounding areas.
Find out more about becoming a driving instructor with RED Driving School or give us a bell on: 0800 688 8811