This article is part of an ongoing series to highlight and promote the technician career — demonstrating to kids, parents, and teachers how becoming a technician is a rewarding career path that can be lucrative and open the door to many opportunities within the industry. Are you a technician who would like to be spotlighted? Sign up!
Technician Spotlight: Damon A.
Name: Damon A.
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Job Title: Automotive Technician
Industry Experience: 9 Years
How did you get started in the automotive industry?
My interest in automotive started because I grew up on a 20 acre farm, and my grandfather is a retired army mechanic. He taught me how to work on vehicles on the farm like tractors and lawn mowers. I’ve always enjoyed repairing and fixing things. Before becoming an automotive technician, I was a pharmacy technician. I got bored sitting in an office all the time, and I was at the top pay scale because I didn’t go to college to be a pharmacist. In 2012, I started in a shop as an oil changer. I worked there for about a year and a half, and there wasn’t any room to grow because the shop was so small. A shop in town had an opening as a lube tech, so I applied, and got the position. I went in as an oil changer again, but I also would do repairs on the side to make extra money. About a year in, I became a full-time technician under the flat rate system. Meanwhile, I worked on ASE certifications, and currently I have five that I keep up with yearly. Today, I’m the main diagnostics tech at our shop, and other shops will bring vehicles to us to diagnose when they can’t figure it out.
What was the driving factor for you to become a technician?
I really enjoy fixing things, and it’s something different everyday. I would get bored if I had to do the same thing everyday. What drove me to this industry is my technical background. I excelled in community college at math and science, and it has always been something I enjoyed. I have an IT background, and know a lot about computers and networking. When I found out that all of this was now in cars, it really peaked my excitement. I began to find other technicians, especially older technicians, didn’t have a clue about computers or programming, and there was a need for it.
What is your favorite part of being a technician?
My favorite part is working with people and customers, even though I don’t always get the opportunity to do a lot of that on the technician side. I always think to myself, “There is a human aspect to this car. It’s not just another car I’m working on. It’s somebody’s transportation, and for a lot of people, it’s their only ride.” When I hear from customers who are struggling with a car, and I can fix it for them, it really makes me feel good about myself. I build a personal rapport with a lot of our customers. They’ll come in, I’ll know their car, and that really is my favorite part of the job… Making people happy and satisfied, along with doing what I love to do.
What do you wish more people, especially high schools, knew about the profession?
I wish people would look away from the old stereotypical grease monkey mechanic. I think people are slowly starting to learn this as vehicles become more technical. That’s why technicians today are called technicians, and not mechanics. We have to know all different types of systems — whether it be the mechanical, electronics, and programming. That’s what I wish we could display to the general public. It’s not just turning wrenches. Ninety percent of what we do is diagnosing the problem. There are technicians that have been in it for a longer time, and they refuse to learn how to diagnose or work on hybrids. Pretty soon they are going to find themselves without any work, because non-electric cars will get phased out.
What would you say to someone who is trying to decide if this is a good career?
If you’re thinking about becoming a technician, you need to be detail-oriented, and find out what you like to do. There’s so many areas you can get involved in within this industry. Find out where your aptitude is and what you’re good at. Some people have an interest to work in dealerships and work on a specific brand of cars. Others like to work in an independent shop where you see all different makes and models. The earning potential is unlimited. You can make as much as you want depending on what shop you work with and what you specialize in. The more you specialize, the more money you’ll make, and the more in demand you’ll be.
How can we keep new technicians in the industry?
New technicians leave the industry because they are not feeling appreciated. I’ve been in that position in the past where I didn’t feel valued. Management and owners need to appreciate their mechanics and not overload them. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you want to retain technicians, let them get good hours and value them. You can do simple things like buying lunch every now and then or giving them a small bonus. One shop here in town gives their technicians lottery tickets every week, which is a great little bonus. Anything you can do to show technicians they are appreciated goes a long way. If you don’t feel appreciated and valued in your shop, no amount of money is going to keep you there.
What is the best advice you could give to someone to become successful in this career/industry?
Train. Train. Train. If you don’t train, you’re going to fall behind. I cannot get enough training. Get all the training you can because the more you know, the more you can do, and the more money you’ll be able to make. It is constantly evolving, and it’s evolving fast.
How can technicians stay up-to-date with the new technology?
Get hands on, and don’t be afraid to take on a different vehicle. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to learn new things. If you want to learn a system, get involved in apprenticeship programs where you can work with an experienced technician. Nowadays, you can’t specialize in everything because there is just too much. Focus on a couple key areas, and become an expert at them.
Any final thoughts?
I love this industry, and it is a great industry to get into now — especially for kids that are coming out of school. Instead of getting a four year degree, you can go to trade school and get a degree that is just as valuable. You don’t have to get a four year degree to make good money and be satisfied in your career. The best technicians I’ve ever met have an IT, programming, and systems analyst background. It’s a good career, I love it, and it’s something I can continue to do until I can’t walk any more.