UTI Graduate is First Female Technician at Mercedes-Benz of Chicago
While other 19-year-olds are entering their first year of college or are still on their parents' couch, Veronica Anderson is making history as the first female technician at Mercedes-Benz of Chicago, a Fletcher Jones company.
Veronica graduated high school a semester early in January 2017 at the age of 17. After hearing a Universal Technical Institute (UTI) representative speak at her high school, the Moline, Illinois, native enrolled at UTI in nearby Lisle.
Truly one who deserves the description of “driven,” Veronica completed the Automotive Technology Program at UTI, as well as the Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Trainings (MSAT) for the Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) Program at Lisle and the manufacturer-paid Mercedes-Benz DRIVE Program at UTI in Long Beach, California.
The Fletcher Jones company took notice of Veronica on the UTI career boards, and she soon had a job lined up for after she completed the program.1
“I love what I do,” says Veronica, who works in the express department performing vehicle inspections, tire repairs, oil changes and more. “It drives me every day to be happy. Going from school to my career, I'm not stressed at all. Every day I wake up, I'm happy to go to work.”
Veronica hasn't even entered her 20s yet, but already she's carving out a career path that is on track for enduring success.
Destined for the Garage
Veronica grew up around cars, since her dad is a semi-truck driver who would work on stock cars and drag cars at their home garage. She has memories of riding scooters with her sister while her dad worked. He'd hand her a baby ratchet to join in, and her passion for cars never left. She went on to build race cars with her father, who is also the late model director for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA).
In high school, she wasn't sure what she wanted to pursue after graduating. Accounting or something in the law field were options, but cars kept calling her name. After talking with UTI, she felt confident in her decision to pursue the automotive world and signed up for UTI.
“As a student, I'd describe UTI as what you make of it,” Veronica says. “The facilities are amazing, and the instructors are really knowledgeable. My first course, I was nervous, but my instructor was really understanding and encouraging. No matter how much I pushed instructors with questions, they either had the answer or helped me learn the answer. I have countless instructors I still talk to. It led me to where I am today.”
Racing Down the Learning Track
Veronica's experience in the automotive program led her to want to learn more, to specialize in a brand to become more well-rounded once she entered the field. She always loved Mustangs and remembers her dad talking about “big block Fords,” which led her to the FACT program.
She later entered the Mercedes-Benz DRIVE program to gain luxury car experience. Despite the differences between the race cars she grew up around and the luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles, they're also closer than you might think, she says.
“Deep down, they're very similar,” Veronica says. “You still need to know your engine basics and what you're looking at. We'll be talking about spark plugs, cylinder heads and terminology you need. It helps to have that racing background because things are more identifiable. And then with Mercedes, there are more electronics and the luxury interiors.”
Veronica still works on race cars today and has also been a technician at the IMCA Super Nationals, a week-long event that sometimes requires work for up to 20 hours a day. She and her dad are getting ready to build a street stock car with a 363 engine, which they plan to race on weekends next year.
“Working with my dad growing up set the basis for what I needed to work on cars in the future,” Veronica says. “Working at Mercedes is like having an expensive day hobby, and then I get to go home and work on a car that lets me have fun.”
A Leading Lady in the Field
Along with all her technician success, it's worth acknowledging that Veronica is also blazing a trail for young females in the industry. While she has made lifelong friends with some of her former male classmates, she did encounter some discouraging naysayers because she was female. Not that they ever stopped her from going after her dreams.
“I have memories of kids who would tell me I shouldn't be there, that I wasn't going to do well, and I told them, you can say those things to me, but let's see those tests and lab scores,” Veronica says. “I would tell some instructors, 'I had a kid who said this,' and the instructor would say, 'Don't worry, you're going to do great things.'”
When she went on a tour of her current workplace, a foreman “straight-up” told her the other employees had given her a code name, as there were no other female technicians in the building. She now has her own private locker room at work for changing, one that was on the premises when she began working but that hadn't been inhabited previously. Despite being in the gender minority, she says she hasn't faced obstacles.
“Coming out into the field, everyone I work with has been so accepting,” Veronica says. “It takes time to understand and get familiar with how to work and react around a female, but the outcomes have only been positive.”
Veronica says she thinks one of the reasons why there aren't more females in the technician industry is simply a lack of knowledge about the field and its potential. When she takes female friends to the race track for their first time, they always enjoy the experience but had never considered a career in cars.
“Females need to know they can do anything they set their minds to,” Veronica says. “Don't let anyone tear you down. Don't let anything that someone says get in your head. You are great, and you should never think you shouldn't be in this field.”
On to the Next Goal
She's already come far, and Veronica has her sights set on more. She says she plans to move closer to work in Chicago next year, and she has hopes to grow her career.
“My goal is to be efficient and do well on time, make it to flat rate and learn as much as I can learn,” Veronica says. Every day, she visits the Mercedes e-learning site to learn more.
She says of all the cars she has worked on, Mercedes is probably her favorite. And one day, she might even have a C-Class Coupe or GT R, which she currently gets to participate in pre-delivery inspections on.
“This career is rewarding,” Veronica says. “It's not one of those jobs where you wake up and don't want to go to work. You get to know that customer is taking the car that you worked on home, and I know I made that difference.”
For students currently at UTI who want to achieve similar success, Veronica recommends to “work hard and stick with it.”
“You're only going to achieve as much as you put in,” Veronica says. “Take that knowledge, learn as much as you can, and ask as many questions as possible. The hard work pays off, but you can't just sit back. Invest in yourself and your learning to get something out of it, and stay positive with it.”Learn more about UTI here, and learn about the Mercedes-Benz DRIVE program here.