1- Punctuality 2- Attitude 3- Stay current with certifications 4-Study live and freeze-frame data 5- QC your work
In my 12 years as an automotive technician, I must confess that the latter part of this career is where the "big picture" came into view. In the beginning, maybe we all start the same, changing oil, batteries, and tires. For me this started back in 2006 when I had just got out of the Navy, I was 22 years old and the only experience to speak of was from being in the engine room on a ship. I did well during my time in the Navy and advanced to the top position in my department, but this life was not for me. So upon exiting, I started working for Freightliner as a diesel technician. Of course, they started me out light with wheel bearings and maintenance, but I took on the big jobs as well and soon became the main heavy-line guy. This was a good job, and if I look back on what helped me succeed I'd have to say it was a combination of 1-being patient while the shop tests your abilities. 2-being on-time every day and staying on task. 3-studying the product literature to understand it fully.
The next phase of life moved me to a new part of the US, and with that, I took the first job available at Sears Auto Center. This place was terrible, the staff was full of high school students who were either acting aloof or stealing inventory. It was relatively easy to advance to the next levels there, but I could not get along with the staff or management. I kept applying to dealerships for a lube-tech position and finally got hired at Honda. This is where I started to let the negative attitudes of those around me affect my ability to focus, I was arguing with people and started making mistakes. I eventually got laid off due to these personal failures on my part, and this followed me on a deep level for many years. So you can see here how important attitude is, a good one can keep you appreciative and focussed where a bad one can distract you and create conflict. Fast forward through the next 3 jobs I held at various shops and the same thing happens, it starts out great and I advance quickly. However lurking inside me is a general feeling of being unappreciated, and I fall into the same behavior over and over again.
At some point I finally figured out that the industry ranks you based on certifications from ASE, I bought a book and studied for A1 for 2 weeks. I felt pretty confident and went to take the exam, but I barely passed. I was both relieved and surprised at the same time, I thought I knew what I was doing by now. Guess not. This stunned me and I didn't take another ASE exam until it was time to re-certify. Years later with a lot more field experience is when I got serious about my career and passed all 8 exams within the same quarter. This is when I made the Youtube video below sharing how I studied and what materials to get. So the other important message here is to take certifications seriously. There is no shortage of technicians out there who will say ASE's don't prove anything, and hey maybe that's true on some level. However, what I offer in response is that you get a regular refresher course on how every part of the vehicle works. Another positive is that employers will pay for the tests!...and most managers will give you a raise based on how many you can pass, so hey that's a win-win-win for a tech right!
Study your opponent...
About 5 years ago I met a senior master technician who would always take the time to explain how something works or help with a diagnosis, let's call him Rick. Rick was an older man full of grey hair and knowledge, I remember how every time I would ask him about an issue I was having with a car he had the same first response. "did you see anything in the data?". I would sigh and tell him I forgot to look and hastily started taking things apart. Then he would remind me how your brain and the scanner are the two most important tools, and how your expensive Snap-on tools won't help you here, and work smarter not harder, blah blah blah. I can say now with absolute certainty that he was right. This is another reason how the ASE's are so beneficial, especially A6, A8, and L1. After studying and passing those exams I became ten times more accurate with data diagnosis. Time is money.
Prove you fixed it...
The last topic I want to touch on is quality control or checking your work at the end of a repair. This can mean many things based on the type of repair you performed, but ALWAYS do a road test! Don't be that guy who lets a car run in their stall for a while and calls it good, most issues won't show up until you put the related components under a prolonged load. I'm not saying to spend a half-hour out driving, but at least do 10 minutes with some freeway and don't be afraid to go full throttle when merging. The customer will do the same thing so be sure to give them back a car you have put through real-world tests. When you return from the test drive, put the vehicle back on the lift if you replaced a component that may leak. Don't just assume it's ok based on how the ground looks under the vehicle [this has tricked me before]. If you encounter a customer that has returned for a re-check or comeback, its good practice to also do a QC road test with them or management. This way at least everyone can verify the repair.
I leave you with this...
All of the information in this publication is just from my personal experience in southern California. In the automotive industry, there are several people who make it to leadership positions based on their years of service, or sometimes who they know. Nepotism IS a real problem as well. However, we can do nothing about that, all we can do is focus on ourselves and our reputation. Decide what direction you want to go whether it be field engineer, shop foreman, service manager, or even shop owner..and work towards that. Be the best you can be and have a good attitude, get yourself on LinkedIn and network. I get offers all the time from recruiters on there, it's obvious the industry has a lack of good technicians. Let's change that.