Kheldon Stapley is a Cat® Dealer Technician for Wheeler Machinery based in Salt Lake City, Utah. In combining two of his passions: Cat equipment and photography, few people tell the dealer technician story better than Kheldon. Recruiting new technicians is mission critical for Caterpillar and Cat dealers, so we asked Kheldon if he’d share some advice for breaking into the business… and succeeding once you get there.
STARTING AS A CAT DEALER TECHNICIAN
Embrace Technology: This field isn’t what it used to be as far as technology goes, so finding new technicians who embrace technology is really important. Computer monitoring is part of nearly every system on equipment and vehicles. Sensors and motors have grown in intricacy with the inclusion of circuitry controlled by data links. Separate systems now talk to each other and relay information to one another, so they can work in seamlessly in tandem and deliver peak performance. This kind of technology can seem overwhelming, but that’s where education becomes so important.
Hit The Books: If you’re still in high school take a shop class if it’s offered. Learn all you can from it and ask as many questions as you need from instructors. Community Colleges often have programs specific for the technician field that are great for those who have very little experience as a mechanic. Many are two-year programs that will allow you to earn a degree. Trade schools have focused programs with short class lengths and on-hands lab work that allows you to learn theory and application. This type of learning is best suited for people who learn best by doing the task themselves. Both are excellent education paths that will help give you the knowledge needed to excel as a technician.
Pay Your Dues: Getting your foot in the door can lead to bigger and better things. Look for local shops that offer apprentice or internship programs. Simply taking a few hours a day in a shop environment and learning the subtle nuances of this field can help you out in the long run with understanding the demands of the career. You should also consider getting a part time job at a lube service shop and starting with the basics. Lube service is often discounted as “grunt work,” but it is without a doubt one of the most important jobs you can have starting out — especially in a fleet application.
Put Safety First: For Cat dealer technicians, safety is first and foremost. Everything you do needs to be done with safety in mind because no task is worth injury to yourself or others. There will be many tasks that will have inherent risks associated with them, but there will be ways to mitigate them. Training, standard operating procedures and safety equipment are there to ensure you make it home in the same condition you started work in.
SUCCEEDING AS A CAT DEALER TECHNICIAN
Lean On Experience: Pick people’s brains every chance you get. Draw on the experiences they’ve had and learn what you can from them. As the old adage goes, “Mind open, mouth closed. Learn much, say little.” This isn’t just something for those starting out either. The minute you believe you have the lock on a procedure, you close yourself off from improvement.
Raise Your Hand: There’s a lot of value to volunteering. Really, it serves two functions: it shows supervisors your willingness to grow and it helps you gain valuable experience to add to your metaphorical toolbox. These are experiences that you can call upon to help you in future tasks.
Choose Wisely: Tools in this trade are important, because without them, you can’t do your job. Investment into tooling is investment into your job and should be treated as such. That being said, don’t be afraid to invest in off-brand tooling when you are first starting out. Be wise about what you buy and make the most of what you have. Nice toolboxes and higher end tools come with time and need.
Grind It Out: One last thought: don’t be afraid to work hard. There is no sugar coating it…this job is hard work and it’s not for those who give up easily. But it’s also extremely rewarding. Turning the key on a repair that you did is a moment where it all comes together and the pride you feel in a repair well done is an almost unmatched common occurrence.
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