Fresh from his crowning as world champion in the Kia EV Skill World Cup 2021, Snows Motor Group's Kia Guildford master technician David Weston is the latest person to take part in AM's '8 Questions to...' series.
Read on to learn what motivates the top technician who is in the process of learning to speak Korean in a further show of commitment to his role.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
Difficult problems come to me to sort. Customer satisfaction is key, whether it’s simply being polite and listening to issues or reassuring customers about how to operate a particular function in the vehicle. It is my responsibility to follow repair and other procedures, as set by Kia, but also make sure these are the right processes to assist a customer and the most cost-effective option for them. I take great pride in training colleagues and apprentices to educate future technicians. I started as an apprentice and think this is really important as cars become more complex. I also liaise with the parts team, to ensure everyone is up-to-date with operation codes and other factors that might influence work on a customer’s car. In some ways, my role serves as the ‘glue’ that keeps the service team informed and customer vehicles fixed quickly and correctly – not that Kias have many problems.
What are the most significant challenges ahead?
Every day is a school day. The fundamentals in terms of the physics of an engine don’t change, but electronics and software in cars requires constant training as they are always being updated or enhanced. Electric vehicles (EVs) are here already, but also increasingly represent the future, so there is always a lot to learn and keep up with. Not only are vehicles increasingly powered by electricity alone, but there are also rapid advances in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and other components that require specialist knowledge to repair. For instance, ADAS has set recommendations when worked on to ensure it operates correctly after any work is done, or else there is the potential to have an unsafe vehicle from an improper repair: you have to know in advance the set calibrations and procedures. Otherwise there can be dangerous consequences.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Training is the answer, but you also need confidence, mental aptitude and the eagerness to learn. A training session may be overwhelming, but if you learn just one single thing during it, then you have learnt something new. Training really helps you understand the core of how something works and, as a result, is hugely satisfying. Kia produces training modules on its specific cars and qualifications, but independent qualifications such as those offered by the IMI are invaluable too. Training is available to help you develop knowledge of higher-level EV or ADAS-specific issues, but the quality of content is just as important as the ability and desire of technicians to learn. You can also learn a lot from colleagues who might have come across a particular problem before, which saves time and cost for a customer. Having a solid system in place for information-sharing is vital.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
I’ve been in the motor trade for 25 years. I’ve been with Kia seven years now. Snows Kia Guildford made me feel part of the company from the outset. It has been hugely supportive and helped me to progress and develop. I wanted to be the best and find out how good I am as a technician. With Kia, the EV Skill World Cup offers the opportunity to prove yourself. It is a challenge that has allowed me to progress my skills, while also learning from competitors. It’s not ‘winning and losing’, it’s ‘winning and learning’. That’s a huge attraction and the satisfaction of winning this year’s competition compels me to learn more and keep going.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned and how have you made use of it at your company?
I think ‘process’. Process and appraising any given problem using a pre-set pattern of observation and problem solving is important. Learning Kia’s five-stage process is a good fundamental approach to all problem solving, whether working on a customer car or something else altogether. It’s about establishing the fault that exists and then confirming the fix. Following a process makes me more efficient and, as a result, I have a high first-time fix rate.
What drives you?
For me, it’s about self-satisfaction and happiness. I’m paid less now than I was previously, yet my state of mind, well-being and self worth are far higher now than before.
What’s your favourite app?
It’s a language-learning app called ‘Preply’. It offers private online lessons from real people. I’ve been learning Korean three times a week.
How do you relax?
I have 20 snakes, 50 geckos and a tortoise. I have ‘reptile dysfunction’!