Yesterday was my 10 year anniversary of starting at my dealer. So much has changed in the decadethat I have been working for VW. Yet the industry largely stays the same. I am sitting on my couch drinking my coffee and reflecting on the past 10 years of being an auto mechanic.
I would like to share some thoughts with you all today.
I started in the industry in 2004. I was totally the “new guy”. While I had just spent over a year in tech school and training with VW, I didn’t really get how the dealership worked. I was very fortunate to have an excellent mentor named Robert. Rob and I shared much of the same ideals about working on cars. He really helped me hone my skills. It was a good mix of helping me out, and letting me get my butt kicked. Something that seems to be lost on techs these days.
While I took to the job pretty quick, it took me about a year to really get my feet under me and feel comfortable in the job. That was around the time where I felt I could be pretty good at fixing Volkswagens. I realized there was not really a problem I couldn’t walk through. That didn’t mean I was going to win every time, but I know I would get through it.
Change in technology
The change in automotive technology has been pretty big over the last 10 years. As a mechanic, it can be tough to adapt and keep up with with the changes. I look at the old guys that have been wrenching for 30 years. I can’t even imagine how they have lasted so long. Makes me wonder if I will be doing this in 20 years. Here are some of the more notable changes from my point of view
- Tire pressure monitors
They were on cars in 2004, but now they are required on all new cars. We can thank the folks at Ford and Bridgestone for that 😉
- LED and Xenon lighting
This is one of my favorites.There are lots benefits to LEDs. From brighter light output, and lower current requirements to selectable colors, we have just scratched the surface of LED use in cars. Plus they look cool!
- Built in GPS and touch screen
I think VW is woefully behind on the radio front. But even they have come a long way since 2004. Back then the highline radio was a Double Din radio with a CD and Tape player. The same radio my Passat has. LOL
- Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity This goes hand in hand with GPS. With the lightning fast advancement in smartphone usage and function, we have seen Bluetooth become much more standard. It is for more than just looking ultra cool with an ear piece.
- Faster communication with less wires
While C.A.N. communication inside a car is not new, the rate of comm has really improved. Also the number of modules that talk and share information is expanding rapidly.
There have been more advancements over the years. But much of what we see is an improvement on an existing technology. Controlling car outputs using pulse with modulation is not new. We can just do it faster new. Pulse with Modulation or PWM is simply controlling an electric output by turning it on and off really fast. It is a different world to light a car light bulb today.
As much as the industry has changed, it has also stayed the same. We seem to be stuck in the classic way things are done. There is no change in the flat rate pay plan for mechanics. I do think that we may be moving to something more consistent. We actually lost 2 techs last year to Tesla. One of the big attractions was being paid by the hour. I understand why companies think flat rate is a great way to pay tech. But part of me thinks that it is an outdated way to pay techs. At least the top level techs. That may be just wishful thinking. It might be time to dive into the pros and cons of flat rate again.
While I said that the industry has not changed very much, we have also changed in the advertizing world. The introduction of “social media” has been interesting. I think that overall car companies have been missing a huge opportunity. They seem to be scared of what someone like me might say. I have even got in trouble for things I have posted on forums. In my mind, I would think that companies would want to embrace someone like me. How better to humanize your brand than to have someone that lives beat the drum for you?
A personal journey
The last 10 years have also been an amazing personal journey. I went from the new guy, to a mid level tech, to a team leader very fast. I spent a lot of time as a team lead being hating. Most of the techs I worked with didn’t like my attitude. I am an old school dude. I am not at work to be a warm and fuzzy dude. I expect techs to come to work, bust their butt, and go home. That does not seem to be the normal today. Even my boss tells me I am an old school guy. I consider it to a compliment.
The last few years I have been really working on bringing my game up. Trying to move away from the guy that everyone hates, to a true leader in the shop. It really involved me paying closer attention to individuals and finding ways to motivate other techs. It is tough for me. I am not the type of person that needs to be “motivated”. I do my job the best I can, because that is who I am. It took a lot for me to understand that everyone is not me. Different things motivate different people. One of my new goals is learning how to interact with coworkers in a different way.
It sure has been an interesting 10 years. Plenty of ups and downs. I have had days that made me love my job. I have also had days that I wanted to lock my toolbox and just leave. But the truth is, I have been at the same dealer for 10 years. This is an industry that has an average turn around of 2 years. It says a lot about the company I work for, and the management my dealer has. It also means the world to me to be able to work with the customers I have. It really is an honor to have met and worked with so many amazing customers. They are truly one of the best parts of my job. I have several friends now that started out as customers. The fact that so many people have 100% trust in me is an amazing feeling.
I want to finish up with a huge thank you. I really have a hard time expressing in words how thankful I am to all the people that have helped me in my career. From mentors to customers and followers of this blog. You are all the reason that I can keep going, and doing what I do. I give you all my sincerest thanks. I appreciate all of you so so much.