How long have you been in your career? How old were you when you started?
I entered the auto industry in May of 2016; I was 19 years old. When I was first hired at my hometown’s Honda, Nissan, and Toyota dealership, Harr Motors in Aberdeen, South Dakota, I was a salesman. I loved meeting new people and selling cars but I had always wanted to be a mechanic. The opportunity was presented to me less than a year after I started selling cars.
What drove you to a service tech career? How did you hear about it?
I had always thought about being a tech but I did not think it was a reasonable idea. I didn’t think it would pay very well and I knew tools and school would be pricey. Eventually, I decided I was going to do it anyway. I had heard from a few different people that there is plenty of money to be made as a technician, as long as I had a good work ethic. My plan was to continue working as a salesman until I had saved enough money to go to school to become a tech. My plans were changed for the better, however, when my dealership announced that they were looking for new service technicians. My ears perked up when I heard them say “no experience necessary. Will train.” I quickly jumped at this opportunity and began working in the shop.
Did you receive any formal education for this career path?
I did not receive any formal education related to automotive. I did go to college for one year, made it on the Dean’s List, worked full time, and did not accrue any debt. Even so, college did not seem like the place for me. I am grateful to my hometown dealership for giving me the opportunity to prove myself and for giving me hands-on training as well as providing ASE assistance (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence).
What does a normal workday look like for you?
I recently moved out of state and have started a new chapter in my automotive career. When I started working for this company, Walser Automotive Group, I started as a Toyota Express technician. I made it clear in my interview that I wanted to get back to repairing vehicles quickly. My manager took note of this and made sure I knew when an opening was made available. I transferred a few months later to a Honda dealership owned by the same company and started working as a Semi-Skilled B Automotive Technician. Now, my day consists of a lot of maintenance (fluid changes, brakes, etc.), some light mechanical repairs (suspension, axles, interior repairs, etc.), light diagnostic, and occasionally a more in-depth job. For example, the other week I replaced my first transmission. I am fortunate enough to work with very understanding and helpful techs who are willing to answer questions, point me in the right direction, and check my work. This allows me to increase my knowledge and advance in my career.
What’s the best thing about working as a technician?
I love the feeling of completing a challenging project. It is satisfying to learn new things. When I can increase my skill set while helping a customer get back on the road, what is not to like?
Talk about your work-life balance: does your job afford time for family and hobbies?
Balancing your work life and personal life is a challenge in any career. I regularly eat a very quick lunch at my bench instead of taking a half hour lunch break. I frequently stay late to finish a project or start another. However, that is my choice. I have decided to push myself so that I can advance faster than most. The reward is a bigger check right now (because we are flat-rate technicians) and more advancement opportunities in the future. Because my wife is on board with this, it all works out. I still have plenty of time to spend with her and with my two dogs. I still have time to run my financial coaching business and to pursue several other ventures. This job is very flexible. If I need to come in late or leave early, as long as I give proper notice, it is no issue. This job is what you make it. You will get out what you put into it.
As a skilled service technician, what would you say to someone asking if they should pursue a career in your field?
Do it! If you are interested in the automotive industry or if you just like working with your hands and solving puzzles, this can be a great career. Like I was told when I was considering it: “There is plenty of money to be made, as long as you have a good work ethic.” I am glad I chose this career and I love that the learning never ends. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, but in this industry, a bad day means you had a tough project or a big obstacle to overcome. But, that means you learned something new. Is that really a bad day? Being an automotive technician is both exciting and rewarding. If that isn’t enough, just think of all the practical knowledge you will gain! If that is all you get out of it, you will still come out ahead.