Entering a new industry, I’m starting at the bottom, as an entry-level technician. Before enrolling at MTTI, I had worked for the same supermarket company for 20 years. I worked my way up to Deli Manager. Doing it for so long, I was good at it. But I wasn’t happy; I was just going through the motions. I didn’t want to outright quit, but every day I dreaded going to work.
I was more interested in music. I liked cars, and during high school I took some automotive classes. I even did a little work on my own car. At that time, working on cars was just a passing interest.
I enjoyed going to the track with my him. Growing up, my father had driven race cars and worked on our own family cars. My dad was only 52 when I lost him to cancer. As I was about to become a father myself, I wanted something to pass down to my son. Even if my son doesn’t want to work on cars for a living, someday his own car will need work, and he will be able to come to me.
Someone I worked with tested positive for the virus. It didn’t feel great to be working in a supermarket, worrying about whether I would bring the virus home to my family. I had vacation time saved, so I took some time off. My wife and I agreed I would stay home, while I figured out what I wanted to do.
It all came together for me. I replied, “You’re right.” I began looking at local schools where I could get my education in the evening and continue working during the day.
He was just a baby at that time. When my wife returned to work after three months of family leave, we didn’t want to leave him with outside babysitters. Having this time together every day with my young son has been priceless.
Some days I wondered if I was cut out for this. ‘Can I do it?’ And then a couple of days later, I would think to myself, ‘Yes. I can’. I felt happy to be working on cars in the shop. Maybe I was only doing an oil change that day, but I liked doing it—it would put me in a good mood.
One of the best things at school was when another student brought in a vehicle with a problem, and we worked it out. Jameson and Tony have different ways of teaching; they complement each other well. Both are very knowledgeable and both make learning enjoyable. They were honest with us; when we did something the wrong way, they would tell us and show us how to do it the right way. Having the opportunity to make mistakes at school, and to learn those lessons, gave me the working knowledge and skills to take into the workforce.
Then one day I got a text message asking me to come in to work the following Monday. They liked the way I had interviewed when I first applied. Starting a new job for the first time in a garage, I was nervous and excited. At the grocery chain where I had worked for such a long time, I knew everyone. At Patriot Subaru, I was going into a new environment. Fortunately, my Instructor, Tony, has been working there for many years. I talk with Tony every day; he’s “above me”, but we work together. MTTI graduates—Veronica, Ashley, Natasha, Dominic, Cody and Devon from my night class—were already working there. It’s fun to be working on a car and look around to see other technicians pulling engines.
What the instructors taught in the program had even more meaning when I applied what I had learned on the job. Sometimes at work, I’d say, “Jameson just talked about that in class”. I could bring questions I had at work back to school. Sharing with other students what I did on the job helped all of us better understand how things work mechanically. It felt like the two ends were coming together—like I was getting a double dose of learning.
If you want to learn, regardless of your age or experience, you belong at MTTI. Going into the industry as an older person, I’m pleased that I can still learn new ‘tricks.’ Maturity also helps me have a good attitude about how I look at life. Beyond knowledge and skills, part of being a mechanic is learning how to deal with adversity—how to cope with what you are working on when it goes wrong. I feel fortunate that when things are tough on the job, I am able to learn other ways of doing things from the people I work with.
I got a great start in school with Tony and Jameson. Practicing hands-on in the school shop built my confidence to go to work in the industry. They gave me an understanding of the whole automotive system and how things work—to knowing why things work—and then the steps to take to fix things. They want to train us not to just work on cars, but to become really good mechanics. MTTI instructors have an investment in their students. They want us to succeed; our success is their success. We’re students now, but in the long run, we become their colleagues.
Working in the automotive industry can be a tough job, physically and mentally. When a customer leaves with his car, it’s on the mechanic to make sure it is road-worthy. I ask myself, ‘Did I tighten everything?’ It is also very rewarding. Each car is a puzzle to figure out. When I can, with my knowledge and my hands, make something that didn’t work—work, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. I feel I am contributing to society by having a skill and the tools to be able to fix something that the customer can’t fix on his own.
Even through you won’t be working 80 hours a week, when you work flat-rate, you can do 80 hours of work. If certain jobs are rated at 2 hours, and you do it in just 1, you get paid for 2. Starting out, I know that what I earn will pay the bills. As I gain experience in the industry, I’ll be able to work faster and the pay will become more lucrative. Working in the dealership every day builds belief in my ability to do what I have learned at school. Every day at work is a new lesson.
Ben is very interested in cars. When I brought him to Patriot Subaru, we had to stay an extra half-hour so he could look at all the cars. If my dad was alive today, he would share his passion for race cars with Ben. He would show Ben how to work on cars. In his absence, I feel like I am passing down to Ben what my father passed to me. I can teach my son what his grandfather would have taught him.
We have a limited amount of time in life; our time here is precious. Work is so important to our mental well-being and to how we interact with others in the world. If we are not working to our full potential—if what we do at work does not make us happy—it affects every part of our lives—especially our relationships with family and friends. I no longer dread going to work. I go to work thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll learn something today. Maybe I’ll help someone today.’ I feel happier and more satisfied with my life. I know my family shares that happiness with me.
Top Right: Ian with his son, Ben.
Middle Right: Ian & Instructor, Tony Garcia, shake hands at his graduation ceremony.
Middle Left: Ian accepts his diploma from Instructor, Jameson Infantino.
Bottom Middle: Ian learning hands-on in MTTI’s automotive tech shop (already hired before he graduated, he is wearing his Patriot Subaru uniform).