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When Maribel “Bel” Valdez was 16 years old, she was discouraged from pursuing a career as an automotive technician. More than a decade later, she completed her automotive technology education, landed a job at Tesla and isn’t turning back.
As a student in an automotive, collision or diesel class, you’re probably thinking about how you can apply your skills in the real world. There are a lot of different jobs out there in automotive, but how does one get there?
Tomorrow’s Technician talked to four people working in very different areas of automotive—two starting out as technicians and two business owners—to give you a look into what it took to get there and how you can, too. In our second story, meet Maribel “Bel” Valdez, a technician at a Tesla dealership.
Maribel “Bel” Valdez
School: Universal Technical Institute
Job: Technician at Tesla
When Maribel “Bel” Valdez was 16 years old, she met with her guidance counselor to talk careers.
“I just kind of thought that maybe I’d be a mechanic. I didn’t even know what a piston was at that time, but for some reason, I just always had a curiosity about it. I always wanted to know how cars run,” she recalls.
“I don’t know if she said these words exactly, but it was to an extent of, ‘It’s not really for girls.’ If she told me that now, I’d be like, ‘Excuse me?’ but at 16, I thought, ‘Well, you know better than I do. You’re probably right.’ So I kind of just dropped it at that point.”
After years of not pursing the career she originally wanted, Valdez was in her thirties and working for Universal Technical Institute’s collections department in Avondale, Arizona. About six years into the job, UTI was offering free classes to employees, and there were automotive classes offered in the evenings. That curiosity for learning about cars was sparked once again.
Valdez started the 12-month auto program while still working a full-time, 9 to 5 job, and she was taking the classes as a hobby. She was constantly exhausted, tired and overwhelmed, but it was worth it.
After completing the program, UTI has advisors who help students find jobs, but Valdez wasn’t initially looking for a career change because she would have to completely start over. Her adviser, however, kept pushing her to try to find a job in automotive and mentioned that Tesla was hiring technicians.
“Quite honestly I didn’t know much about Tesla at the time,” she says. “I thought it was like a hybrid car. I knew it had something to do with electrical, but I wasn’t 100% sure what it was about, but she was adamant about me applying at Tesla.
“I did my research and I honestly fell in love right away—as soon as I found out this car takes off in 2.6 seconds, zero to 60 miles, and it’s all electric.”
Three interviews later, Valdez got the job and was ready to start a new career and move to Austin, Texas, to work at a Tesla dealership, ending up where she wanted to start all along.
“You just have to put yourself out there and take the chance, take the risk because if you don’t, then you’re never going to know,” Valdez adds. “If it’s a passion that you have, you have to try to figure it out and not give up. Just push forward, don’t stop, don’t let someone else say what you can and you cannot do. It’s totally up to you.”
Check out more “Kickstarting Your Career” stories, here.