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Finding a career you truly enjoy is a journey. For some, they are born knowing what they want to do and for others, it takes time. Either way, pursuing a career you’re passionate about requires diving in head first and learning the skills needed
to perform the job well.
UTI graduate Briannah Blakely is a perfect example of this. At just 19 years old, she’s working as a diesel technician at
Cummins Power Generation engine shop in Glen
Burnie, Maryland. Briannah always knew she wanted to do something hands-on, which eventually led her to the diesel industry. Once she knew this was the path for her, she hustled and put in the hard work she needed to get there—finishing her
training and starting a full-time job in just over one year!7
Keep reading to learn all about Briannah’s inspiring story, from her journey at UTI to what she’s doing in her career today.
From a young age, Briannah loved working with her hands. “I always liked taking stuff apart and putting it back together,” she says. From taking apart pens in elementary school to items around the house, she had a natural curiosity of how
Growing up, Briannah’s family had ATVs, dune buggies and dirt bikes. She started helping her dad in the garage and fell in love with working on different types of machinery. Her first big project was helping him tear down and rebuild an ATV, which
she later received as a birthday present.
In high school, Briannah took various shop classes in metals, woods and engineering. She immersed herself in different types of hands-on work and developed a true passion for it. “I learn best when I can touch and move things with my own hands,”
When it came time to start thinking about her future, Briannah knew she wanted to do something mechanical. She considered mechanical engineering, but after looking into several college programs, she realized what a long-term commitment it would be. Several
of her friends were in half-day technical school programs, which sparked her interest in this option.
One day, a representative from Universal Technical Institute came and did a presentation in Briannah’s
metals class. She was intrigued by the speed of the programs, industry demand and the types of careers UTI can help prepare students for.1 This was a defining moment for Briannah, and she ended up
enrolling at UTI during her junior year of high school.
Two months after graduating high school, Briannah started her Diesel Technology program at
UTI Exton. After completing her core program, she decided to further her training
by completing the Cummins Engines program.
So why did Briannah choose to take the diesel route? “I was always drawn to larger engines,” she shares. She saw an opportunity to go into a field with a high demand for technicians and great income potential. Without diesel, the country doesn’t
run—so there will always be a need for skilled technicians who can work on these engines.
Overall, Briannah enjoyed her time at UTI. She had several instructors who
made her experience memorable, including her brakes instructor and refrigeration instructor, who was great about slowing down and going through the material to ensure everyone in the class understood it. “When the instructors enjoy the class,
they make the class enjoyable for everyone else,” she shares.
While UTI students work hard in the classroom and lab, it doesn’t mean they don’t have fun! Briannah shared that she may or may not have been involved in a prank war in the diesel hallway that involved some confetti and dollar store silly
After graduating, a UTI employment specialist gave Briannah a
list of companies in the local area where she could apply for jobs. Among these was a Cummins engine shop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Briannah went to the engine shop in Harrisburg and met with the team for an interview. They liked what she had to offer, however they weren’t hiring at the time. So, they sent her information to a shop in Maryland. After interviewing, Briannah was
offered a full-time diesel technician position with a Cummins Power Generation engine shop in Glen Burnie, MD—which is where she’s been working since.1
So what does a typical day on the job look like for Briannah? After waking up at 5am, she drives to the shop, clocks in, and talks to the foreman to see what jobs need to be done for the day. She’ll start with the most urgent jobs first and go from
there. She takes a midday lunch break and resumes her work for the rest of the afternoon, and she’ll usually clock out around 3:30pm.
Prior to becoming a technician, Briannah worked in retail and movie theaters. While she enjoyed her coworkers, the type of work she was doing wasn’t fulfilling. Her day-to-day routine was very mundane, and she often found herself bored. When she
would wake up in the morning, she wouldn’t want to go to work.
Since attending UTI, Briannah’s career has changed drastically. “Now, I don’t dread going to work. I enjoy what I do,” she shares. “It helps that the work isn’t the same day after day.” Rather than sitting at
a cash register, Briannah is always moving around and doing something new. Her work isn’t monotonous—which she loves.
When it came time to transition from UTI to the workforce, Briannah shared that she was well prepared. “UTI does a good job of setting expectations and telling you this is how it’s going to be,” she says. Having the help of the
Employment Assistance team helped Briannah to connect with companies
looking for technicians, like the shop she works for today!
Diesel is often seen as a male-dominated industry—but this didn’t stop Briannah from following her passion. Briannah shared that prior to entering the workforce, she would sometimes be questioned or get the side eye from those who were skeptical
about her pursuing this career. However, she stuck to her path and didn’t let this bother her.
Once Briannah proved that she could do the job and started working full-time, the skepticism in those around her was gone for the most part. “Once you start working, no one looks at you any different,” she shares. If you work hard and get
your tasks done, no one has any reason to doubt your capabilities.
Briannah also added that more and more companies are starting to specifically look for female technicians because of their talent, natural ability and the diversity they can bring to the workplace.
Briannah’s number one piece of advice for aspiring technicians is to not procrastinate starting your training. She’s glad she jumped right in! If you know you have a passion for it and can see yourself pursuing a career in the industry, go
for it. This is what allowed Briannah to become a full-time technician at just 19 years old.6
Briannah also emphasized the importance of not skipping out on lab time. For those attending UTI, the lab is where you’ll get to apply what you’ve learned in class and get hands-on preparation for the industry. “Hands-on experience can’t
be traded for anything,” she says.
Briannah has a lot to be proud of at such a young age. Her proudest accomplishment in school was when one of her instructors asked her and a classmate to fix a Kenworth truck that wasn’t running, and they were able to drill out new mounts and rewire
it so it ran. When it comes to her career, Briannah is glad that she stayed motivated and pushed through the challenges, because it led her to where she is today.
For those considering UTI, Briannah recommends having an idea of what you want to do beforehand. Once you start your program, it goes by fast—so it’s important to have an idea of what you want to do, whether it’s diesel like Briannah
or another program like automotive, welding or collision repair.
When Briannah isn’t busy working as a diesel technician, you can find her playing video games, painting, making origami or even sculpting...all things with her hands! She’s currently collecting pieces of metal, nuts and studs for a scrap sculpture
she’s working on.
Briannah is a great example of how far hard work, determination and passion can take you in this industry. We’re excited to follow her success as her career unfolds in the years to come!
Interested in learning more about the types of careers you can pursue in the diesel industry? Check out our diesel career guide.
UTI’s 45-week Diesel Technology program is designed to give you the skills top manufacturers say matter most. To learn more, visit our program page and
request information to get in touch with an admissions representative today.
Veronica Anderson is the first female automotive technician at Mercedes-Benz of Chicago. And she's only 19! Now you can read her inspiring story.
How did Bogi Lateiner go from pre-law to Universal Technical Institute, to shop owner and television personality on Velocity's All Girls Garage? Here's how.
Wondering what to put on a diesel mechanic tools list? Check out this comprehensive diesel mechanic tool set recommended by the pros.
It only takes a few minutes to learn about technician training opportunities.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.
Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved to operate by the Private Business and Vocational Schools Division of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.