10 THINGS EVERY TECHNICIAN NEEDS TO KNOW
Interested in a career as an automotive, motorcycle, or marine technician? We asked ten successful techs what advice they would give to people who are either just starting out in their careers, or who are considering going to a technical school.
1) Nobody Starts Out as a Master Tech
Interested in being a technician but you’ve never even turned a wrench? So what! Okay, so you may struggle from time to time compared to the star students who practically grew up in a garage, but you can do this! And a positive attitude can make all the difference.
Jimmy McMillan, an instructor Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) Orlando, Florida believes that maintaining a positive outlook can help you push through the hard times.
“If you stick with it and keep your attitude in the right spot, you’ll get there, too,” McMillan said. “I’ve had students that I thought weren’t cut out for it end up being some of the best students out there. And a lot of times it didn’t have to do with technical background: it had to do with attitude; it had to do with confidence.”
2) Find a Mentor
Allen Klueckman is a UTI graduate and an automotive technician at Sewell BMW of Grapevine in Texas. He’s also a veteran who understands what it means to be brave and strong. But when he started his career, he wasn’t afraid to ask for help when he needed it.
“It was a rough start.” Klueckman said. “You’re in this new environment, you have to learn all these new things, and there’s not once where I ask someone and they didn’t immediately help me. Anything that you need, they will do absolutely 100% to help you get it.”
3) You Have to Want It
There’s no such thing as an overnight success. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, or technicians. Everyone who has “made it” has typicaly spent months if not years of learning, trying, failing, getting back up, and then trying it all over again. Success takes hard work, and if you’re going to reach your goals you have to want it.
“UTI doesn’t guarantee you anything, it’s just helps you gain an entry-level position. If you want it bad enough, you’ll do it and you can succeed at it,” said Mark Jenkins, an instructor at UTI Houston. “It’s not easy—it wasn’t easy for me. Nobody gave me anything…I just have a desire to want to do these things.”
4) Take Calculated Risks
Blake Keeffe understands the value of calculated risks. Now a technician for Harley-Davidson, he was burned out after years working on cars. He was so excited about his new career direction that he showed up for his first class three weeks after his initial call with an admissions representative at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I sold everything I owned and drove down there the next week,” Keeffe said, who lived in Washington at the time. “It got a little nerve-racking as I was paying to go there out of my own pocket, so I tried to really take advantage.”
5) Give Yourself a Break
Admitting you don’t know everything isn’t weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and it can help you improve as a person and as a technician.
“Everything you do in this field, you probably for the most part have not seen it before,” says Marissa Andrews, a graduate of UTI’s Marine Mechanics program, who currently works for Mercury Marine at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. “You don’t know everything, you’re always learning something new, and that’s what I love about it. It will take a while to really learn a lot of it, but if you’re really passionate about fixing these things, you’ll do good.”
6) Ask Questions
Ever met someone who knows it all? You know, that person who thinks he’s smarter than the experts, and he isn’t afraid to tell anyone within earshot. Here’s the thing. No matter how good you are, you can always get better! And that drive to improve yourself can be the difference between success and mediocrity.
Ted Foos, a UTI Norwood instructor and automotive technician with 20 years of experience loves it when his advanced students want to be pushed beyond their comfort zone. He believes people who aren’t afraid to ask questions have better chance to succeed in their careers.
“The people who do better are the people who ask for more.” Foos said. “If someone wants to know more, I like to give them as much as I can.”
7) Tackle Challenges Head On
One of the exciting things about being a technician is the variety of work. Sure, there are mundane tasks like oil changes, tire rotations, and cleaning your station. But each time you open a hood there’s a chance you’ll be faced with problems you’ve never tackled before. Embrace it!
Austin Adair, a UTI graduate who works for Faulkner Auto Group, loves it when he’s faced with a challenge that may seem overwhelming at first.
“There’s a certain sense of satisfaction whenever you’re looking at something and you can’t figure out what’s wrong,” Adair said. “You think your way through it and it might take days, but that instant where it sparks, and you’re able to fix it whenever nobody else can, it’s just a pretty good day.”
8) You Have Options
Chris Jones, a graduate of Marine Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Florida explains how having a strong work ethic and being skilled at your trade can improve job security.
“There’s such a lack of great technicians in the marine industry that you can go anywhere now and get a really good job with just a good work ethic, a good drive, and some mechanical knowledge that you can get from MMI,” Jones said. “You can go anywhere, honestly, the options are out there. So, trades, whether it’s the marine side, motorcycle, or even automotive, have started to dwindle because of the push of college.”
9) Want to Specialize? Be Willing to Move!
Madison Conrad was born and raised in New Mexico. She grew up wanting to work in the racing industry and she knew that meant she’d eventually have to leave her hometown. The graduate from UTI’s NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI) followed her dream and now she works for Roush Yates Engines.
“Racing was not big on the West Coast at all, or New Mexico, so I knew to make it in this industry I had to move out to North Carolina,” Conrad states. “That’s when I found [NTI], and it was perfect.”
10) Think About Your Legacy
How do you create a legacy? Show up on time, work hard, care about your customers, and do great work the first time.
Frank Cutajar, an instructor in UTI’s Collision Repair and Refinish training program (CRRT) in Sacramento, CA, says he teaches his students to think about their legacy.
“Every car they work on has their name on it. It’s got their parents’ name on it. It has their grandparents’ name on it,” Cutajar said. “And if you think of it that way, you should do a phenomenal paint job.”