Certified Excellence

April 3, 2023
Nathaniel Dillard becomes the youngest ASE World-Class Technician.

At 22 years old, Nathaniel Dillard is a world-class certified technician with years of industry experience already under his belt. Though many doubted his career path, one local shop owner he worked for saw potential in him.   

Dillard works as a research and development contractor at the North American division of Akka Technologies, a European company that offers engineering consulting for the automotive industry.   

At 10 years old, his father enlisted his help with repairing a fuel pump on his vehicle. He said he needed “tinier hands than his,” Dillard remembers.   

His interest in working with cars only grew, and after leaving high school, he immediately pursued the automotive field.   

He started as a lube technician at a dealership after finding a job posting before going to work at an independent shop. It was there that he met Wallace Parrish: his mentor and owner of ZZ Auto Service Center.  

“I impressed him, because I was working in the field I was at 18,” Dillard says.   

He was still unsure how committed he was to continuing his career as a technician, with many pushing him toward going to college.   

It was Parrish who encouraged Dillard to obtain the ASE certifications that helped get him the job he has now, even going so far as to help fund the test fees.  

“He’d seen the potential in me, and told me to keep pushing for greatness,” Dillard recounts.  

When he decided to pursue world-class certification, much of it was material he’d already worked with in real life, but some required preparation. He says that he introduced himself “slowly into those subjects” by “studying up and researching.”  

“A lot of is hands-on knowledge that you would acquire, but a lot of it is also just understanding the concepts and applying them,” he says.  

His advice for others that are pursuing ASE certifications is to seek resources online, especially official practice tests. If someone fails a test, he advises to study and try again–Dillard says he failed some tests up to four times before passing.  

Dillard cites his time at the shop as the most impactful time of his career. Parrish offered him support and confidence, and in spite of all the doubters, Dillard saw a path to carve for himself toward what he always wanted to do.  

Just a few months ago, he stumbled upon a paper from a mock career presentation that he performed at 15.   

“I remember one of the questions it asked was, ‘what would you like to do after graduating high school?’ I said that I wanted to be an R and D electrical contractor. … I did end up getting that job, and I think that’s really cool,” he says.  

In his current role, Dillard encounters many college students interested in the industry through a tech student program and is often a mentor for many of them.  

The most important piece of advice he has received is to keep up with emerging technologies. He remembers how his background in working on computers with his father gave him an advantage when he first started as a lube technician.   

“I was able to apply that, being the new guy in the shop [and] already having an understanding of electrical systems in cars that are already becoming more and more electrical, versus mechanical,” he says. “And that has allowed me to keep ahead in my field.”  

For Dillard, that’s what his driving motivation to work in the automotive field has been: working with emerging technologies and being on the cutting edge of new products.   

“I really enjoy problem-solving situations that I know for a fact have never occurred in the world before,” he says.   

Though Dillard enjoys a fulfilling career today, he confesses that the doubt he faced was one of the hardest parts of getting there, with many around him pushing him to pursue other paths.  

“There’s a lot of negative connotations, even today when it comes to a skilled labor position,” he says. “We’re starting to understand that not everyone needs to go to college, but there’s still some sort of a negative light shined on you if you haven’t. I think that’s not necessary.”  

He’s more than satisfied in the position he holds now, being able to provide for himself while doing what he loves. He currently hopes to continue his work in the research and development field.   

“I think you can have a really good career and a really good life outside of work in this field,” Dillard says. 

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