Name: Hannah Gordon
Job title: Vehicle Technician
Time in current role: 14 years
Hannah Gordon is a mechanic. Follow her on Twitter.
Why did you decide to become a freelance mechanic?
I remember being a bridesmaid at six years old for my uncle’s wedding. All the other bridesmaids received jewellery and when I opened my present I had a bright red Lamborghini Diablo model. From then on I just knew I wanted to work with cars one day.
Being a mechanic wasn’t my first choice. I recall growing up having several jobs in mind, in fact every week it was something different. I’m sure if my parents had looked into the future and seen me in a pair of overalls covered in grease they’d have taken that Lamborghini away from me at that wedding!
I remember tinkering with scrap cars or helping to pass tools at a local garage run by a family friend. Watching other people fix cars fascinated me. I enjoyed seeing how things worked, and the sound of engines was like music to my ears. When I got my first car I didn’t have a lot of money so when things needed to be fixed I did it. My knowledge grew from there and every day I worked on cars I learnt more and more.
I’ve worked at this village garage from the beginning and still do today, but I‘ve also gained a lot more contacts within the industry which allows me to spend weeks at different garages. The main driving force for me to go freelance was Twitter. I’d have conversations with people who shared my interests and in turn got to know them and eventually work with them. In any given week I could be working on a Vauxhall Corsa, Land Rover or a Porsche 911.
What are the key functions of your role?
My main responsibility is to service and fix faults with cars that are brought into the workshop. This means I need to have good communication skills as quite often the customer is concerned with what the problem is, how long it’s going to take to fix and whether or not it’s going to be expensive.
Another part of my job is to ensure that the right parts are ordered in time. At the end of the day I’m providing a service to a car owner and I want to make sure that I hand their vehicle back in full working order and that I’m honest about the work that’s been completed.
Talk us through your typical working day
I make sure a coffee and bowl of cereal are consumed before I even attempt to meet the public, and I usually aim to get to work around 7.30-8am. A list of jobs is usually presented to me at the start of the day and I’ll prioritise what needs to be done first. If a car requires an MOT or if the customer needs it back at a certain time then it’s done first.
I usually have a break at around 10am – it’s important to eat a lot for my job as I’m on my feet all day and its fairly physical, but to be honest I don’t need any encouragement to eat!
Work commences until around 1pm when I have lunch. Depending on how busy I am and how filthy the job is sometimes I may have lunch on the go. I use my lunch break to read messages and emails, and get on social media.
I tend to finish between 5-6pm depending on the workload. A clear up of the workshop and tools is an important end-of-day routine. On my way home I may stop off to look at a friends’ car, price up parts for a car, or if I’m really lucky, go to a car event.
Once home it’s time to scrub the oil off my skin, nails and clothes. I relax, check my diary for the following day, and may trawl through car ads or eBay for a rare classic car in need of a new home.
Your favourite part of the job?
The variety of vehicles I work on is what I love. In just one week I could have worked on over 15 cars that range from vintage classics to family hatchbacks, off roaders and supercars. Every day is different and this variety allows me to build up my technical skills and to work on vehicles that I’ve often dreamt about owning.
The clients I meet are also very diverse and I’ve been lucky enough to attend some great events and meet people who are huge in the industry. Being just a humble ‘grease monkey’, I feel privileged to have met and worked alongside some real legends of the motoring trade.
The trade as a whole has a very bad reputation amongst the public, especially with regards to women, so it’s nice to be able to instil a bit of confidence back into people and to encourage future female generations to consider a job working on cars. The physicality of my job also means that it doubles as a bit of a work out.
…and the part you could do without?
As with any job in engineering, sometimes you have days when nothing goes right. I’ve worked on vehicles that have kept me awake at night trying to figure out what the problem is. With modern cars and the growing number of electronics things are getting harder and more expensive to fix.
It can be frustrating when a problem takes a long time to sort and the customer is getting as restless as you are, as there’s a lot of pressure to get cars back to people quickly.
How would your clients describe you in three words?
Friendly, helpful and driven.
Plans for the future?
I plan to step away from the more modern cars and focus my interests into restoring classic cars as I’ve always loved bringing cars back to their former glory. I currently write for an online motoring magazine which I enjoy and each month I go on a local radio station to talk about cars and give people advice. I’ve also recently started my own YouTube channel where I post car reviews so I’m looking forward to developing this more.
I’d love to do more media work and after featuring in a Barclaycard advert I’ve got a real drive to get in front of the camera again. I also want to buy an old BMW to restore, but finding the time could be tricky.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring mechanics?
The sector I work in can be a very difficult industry for women to integrate into. I’ve been extremely lucky with the places and people I’ve worked alongside, but there have been days where I’ve wanted to turn my back on the motoring industry. I felt as a woman I had to prove myself over and over again, but confidence in my knowledge and skills played a huge part in overcoming this.
The best place to seek employment as a mechanic is through apprenticeships and plenty of manufacturers, even F1 teams, offer fantastic schemes that allow you to learn and earn at the same time. Going freelance in an industry like this requires plenty of contacts and I wouldn’t suggest taking this route until you’re sure you can get a full week’s work.
I can honestly say it’s the most rewarding, fun and progressive job, but expect to work hard and be under constant pressure. Every day I learn something new and that’s what keeps me motivated. LLY