Lessons From a Gen-Z Technician
Most of the folks that FenderBender gets a chance to talk with have grown up in the automotive industry. Some have been racing cars since they were hardly out of diapers, whereas others were lucky enough to get their first job in their grandfather’s shop.
If you were to watch Noah Blair work on a vehicle, you would swear he was born with a wrench clenched in his little hand. He did not study at the heels of a relative, nor sweep the floors of the family shop. He began his mechanical career in the belly of a UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter.
At the age of 17, Blair chose to enlist in the United States National Guard. He always had a knack for wrenching as well as computing, and he got his fair share of both during his four years with the Guard.
Now, at the ripe age of 22, Blair is one of few technicians with the knowledge and unique skill set required to perform calibrations of advanced driver assistance systems. Blair’s boss, Bryan Kauffeld, vice president of Ulmer’s Auto Care, says he is “one of the most impressive guys in the industry.”
At a time when the younger generations are marked with attributes such as “lazy” and “entitled,” Blair says his age gives him an advantage.
“If I’m being honest, I think I did pick up the software and electronic equipment components a bit quicker than the other guys,” he says. “It’s probably due to me being young and growing up in the electronic age.”
ADAS calibrations are among the most precarious procedures to be done on cars. Each target, sensor, and camera needs to be meticulously placed before the diagnostic systems can be run, and even then the margin for error is tiny.
But Blair says accountability is nothing new for him. The Black Hawk helicopters that he worked on during his time in the Guard were used to transport troops, medical supplies, and aided in putting out wildfires along the West Coast.
He says wrenching on a car is not that different from wrenching on a helicopter, “except this one doesn’t fly.”
While he may be green, Blair does have a few sage pieces of advice for technicians and shop owners, alike:
If your shop is standing in the shallow end of ADAS calibrations, it might be time to take the plunge. Blair estimates, “The autonomous systems we are working on now will become mandatory on all new vehicles within the next five years.”
Hire at least one younger person in your shop who can navigate newer software systems and knows the newer verbiage.
Be willing to adapt and learn new things, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re out of your wheelhouse.