A Desire to Learn
Michael Soto’s career began in Puerto Rico and moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. when he decided to move so he could explore more opportunities in the collision repair industry.
Soto began fixing cars in his hometown in Puerto Rico when he was only 16 years old. Despite not knowing the proper procedures to repair his neighbor’s cars, he kept trying to fix them and learn as he went.
“My parents told me to just try it,” he says.
And, after college, Soto decided to find a job in the U.S. as a technician. He found the shop, Mid-Town Body Repair, through friends of the owner, he says.
Soto came to the shop only being able to speak a little bit of English and gradually not only learned the language through the help of his coworkers, but also learned how to perform more repairs and moved up to the role of body technician. Plus, he’s been able to use his native tongue when Spanish-speaking customers visit the shop.
Taking a Leap
Soto moved to the U.S. roughly a year and a half ago. He started at Mid-Town Body Repair with the hopes of being able to move up the ranks as a body technician and one day own his own shop, he says.
In Puerto Rico, Soto learned repair work through a one-year body technician program at Automeca Technical College.
“I’m the kind of person that keeps moving up,” Soto says.
Not only did Soto take a chance by moving to the U.S. himself, he later also brought his brother over to the shop. Now, his brother works as the head detailer in the collision repair center.
Following a Mentor
Jason Maher, head technician at the shop, says he noticed Soto’s work ethic and decided to mentor him.
“You never have to ask him to help,” Maher says. “He’ll just come over and help.”
Maher says he has noticed Soto go above and beyond in his work. For instance, Soto will work more than the typical 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. day and come in on the weekends or stay late to get a job done.
Soto is still in the process of learning the skills of blueprinting, thorough teardowns and overall checking the repair job quality but he has been efficient for every hour that he has worked in his 40-hour workweek, Diane Hanson, shop office manager, says.
Soto says that within a month of his transition to body technician, he started doing simple bumper replacement and now works on refining his skills in door replacement, aligning center pillars and dent pulling.
Learning Over Time
Soto says he was able to improve in his work through the help of his co-workers. He was able to learn what he did wrong on repairs because Maher would come over and show him the correct way to do it, for example.
Soto also gradually learned more English and became a source for many people in the neighborhood when it comes to translating. Soto will translate for customers who don’t know English and since he began translating, he has been able to bring in an additional customer base for the shop.
Each week, Soto translates an interaction two days out of the week, he says.
Hanson says that Soto is respectful to the customer and is understanding and patient in these transactions.