The air was tense in the workshop, and I felt my pulse quickening as one by one, the other automotive technicians raised their hands indicating that they were done checking the engines on their vehicles. I was far from finished with inspecting the Japanese-made car assigned to me. It did not help that in this competition, I was representing Porsche Centre Hong Kong, Jebsen Motors while many of my competitors hailed from Japanese brands and were more familiar with the engine configurations we were given to examine. The timer was ticking, and the pressure was immense.
That is the most vivid memory I have from the 2017 Best Apprentice Competition (Vehicle Mechanic/Electrician group), a scheme organised by the Vocational Training Council (VTC). The scheme aims to nurture skilled automotive technicians and to build up a sustainable talent pool in Hong Kong. Having completed four years of apprenticeship at Porsche Centre Hong Kong, I was intrigued by the opportunity to represent my company in the competition At the encouragement of our Technical Trainer, I submitted an application to participate.
From a career development perspective, taking part in the competition was an easy decision. I love my work – a job as an automotive technician is much safer and more intellectually stimulating than I originally imagined, and I can see myself doing it for the long term. An award would certainly increase my potential for future advancement. Also, the process of preparing for the competition would provide me a healthy dose of pressure to polish and perfect my on-the-job skills.
Carrying out my usual job duties, like measuring an engine’s performance and maintaining the engine, braking and air-conditioning systems, was the best way to practice since those were the very skills on which we would be assessed. After work, I diligently studied the Porsche Centre technician manual, making sure I understood the procedures and techniques thoroughly. I also really appreciate my mentors taking my calls on those evenings, answering my questions and doubts with patience and detail!
Back in the competition hall, other competitors were getting ahead and I was getting nervous. To stay on track, I honed my vision in on the car in front of me, I focused my thought on all the techniques that I had learnt from my four-year apprenticeship, and performed the procedures precisely as I learnt. I knew I had to overcome anxiety and fear if I wanted to complete the task on time. And I did.
The results were announced shortly after the final round, while I was still recovering from the intense pressure. When I heard my name being called as the first-place winner, I was stunned for a few seconds. But by the time I was up on the stage, I was feeling more proud and fearless than I ever have.
The experience was one of the most valuable in my life, but not just for the career or learning reasons I mentioned. Daring to put myself in a position of risk and stress had made me more courageous. And the positive outcome of this journey reinforced the importance and reward of conquering one’s fear.
To the other apprentices out there, or to those who are interested in this line of work, I would say – be brave! Try something new and don’t let fear hold you back. Without that initial courage to sign up for the challenge, I would still be standing on the sidelines, watching others excel but never experiencing this euphoria myself.
Now, I am ready to brave my next goal –becoming a Bronze Level Porsche Technician in my company’s famously demanding certification programme. Before that, I will enjoy and claim my prize from the competition – a sponsored tour of several automotive factories in Europe, including a trip especially arranged by my company to see the Porsche Development Centre!