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Patience is the Key to Success: UTI Norwood Auto Instructor Ted Foos

"Electrical is one of those things where you can learn only so much on your own. To really learn and diagnose problems you have to be taught certain procedures that you never would have known existed if somebody didn’t show you."

 

There's a bit of an accent in Ted Foos' voice that hints at his Boston roots. But when he speaks, it’s his upbeat sense of humor and practical optimism that can be heard loudest. He has a confidence and grounded perspective that comes from the many years he has worked in the auto industry.

With over 20 years in the business, Ted has had his struggles as well as successes. As an instructor at UTI Norwood he's in the position to share his lifetime of mechanic’s experience with his students.

“When you have twenty years of doing something you have a lot of knowledge. I found it really rewarding to share it. And I knew I wanted to get into teaching.” His interests in mechanics began during his childhood. He was always taking things apart and putting them back together. He put together skateboards for him and his friends. When he got a little bit older he moved up to working on BMX bikes. His parents were supportive and encouraged him in his mechanical pursuits.

“I’ve always been mechanically inclined. As a kid my dad always had a workshop – a wood shop by trade, so it got me working on things and familiar with tools. My parents always let me take things apart and not get mad at me about it. Because a lot of things came apart and never came back together in the learning curve.”

When he got his license he used his budding mechanical talents in fixing the family cars. Money wasn't something that they had a lot of. Learning how to repair vehicles came out of necessity rather than being a hobby. The first car he ever worked on was an 82' Oldsmobile Wagon, which his dad outfitted with a lobster trap on the top as a comedic accessory. It wasn't the type of car that one would want to roll up to a first date with necessarily, but he took pride in keeping it running.

The first major repair he ever did was on his mom's 86' Buick Regal. It was also the first time he ever made a huge mistake. When he took it for a short spin, the brakes were louder than before and not that responsive. He had put the brake pads in backwards. But he took this in stride. He processed what he did wrong and moved forward. This would be a valuable lesson that would determine how he would approach future challenges in his career as a mechanic.

Everyone takes different steps in their career. Some of these may not make sense at the time to the person taking them. But in the end, a career path may seem like a logical progression. Each step may bring new experiences that helps lead to the next opportunity.

Today Ted still works on cars in addition to teaching at UTI, with his focus being on electrical systems. He troubleshoots these like one would approach a puzzle, deconstructing what's going on until he finds a solution. Sometimes he does his best problem solving before he goes to sleep. In the quiet of the evening he's able to lay back and break down a problem until a solution reveals itself. He approaches problem solving with patience and this is an important lesson he shares with his students.

“You have to take a step back sometimes and if you’re stressed out the best thing in automotive is to walk away from it. If something is driving you crazy, it’s not that important. It’s not worth the anxiety and stress. Walk away, work on something else, grab a coffee or go get lunch.”

As an instructor who teaches both basic and advanced electrical classes he has seen firsthand how students can be intimidated by the subject of electricity. It's an abstract concept that people aren't generally aware of unless they get an accidental jolt of it. Ted takes his time to demystify and explain it in a way that all of his students can understand.

“Electrical is one of those things where you can learn only so much on your own. You have to be taught certain things. To really learn and diagnose problems you have to be taught certain procedures that you never would have known existed if somebody didn’t show you.”

Automotive technology is becoming more computerized with electrical systems getting more complicated. Technicians need to have the skills and patience to troubleshoot them when things go wrong. Ted wants to make sure that his students are set up for success when they go out in the real world and have to deal with electrical systems on their own.

It would make sense that after 20+ years in the industry that the last thing Ted would want to do when he gets home is to work on cars. But even in his free time he's still out in the garage working with his friends on new projects. He's still learning, and still doing what he loves - solving problems and figuring out how things work.

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