Tejpal Singh Gill, a Diagnostic Specialist/Shop Foreman at a busy automotive dealership in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (www.ase.com), the non-profit organization that conducts national certification tests for automotive technicians. Behind this honor is a thirty-year career of increasing responsibility and service. Tejpal (Tej, for short) is an ASE Certified Master Technician and serves as a quiet role model for the profession.
“I was born and raised in Village Dhudike, District Moga, Punjab, India,” Tej explains. “We were a farming family and I worked on farm equipment with my uncles all the time and I enjoyed it very much. My formal education was all in the village from primary, higher secondary and two years of college. I was the first boy in the family to go to college. In middle school, I learned basic mechanical concepts of diesel engines, tractors, cultivating and harvesting equipment.”
Arriving in America in 1984 Tej was adrift but eventually landed a job as a production supervisor with a manufacturer of printed circuit boards. “It was decent job, it paid well, but it soon started to feel like just a job” to the 30-year-old. Tej was looking for a calling while pursuing his day job and taking engineering courses at night. One day Tej was taking his car in for an oil change and thought that owning and running a repair shop would be ideal. This eventually led to him and a friend enrolling in an automotive technician training program in Landover, Md. Both graduated 18 months later.
His friend got a job quickly, but Tej was not getting interviews and was growing discouraged after months of looking for a position. “I was very anxious and depressed. My mother talked with me one day and encouraged me to stay true to my path…and she was right.” A few days later “my answering machine had a message from the service manager of a Lexus dealership in Chantilly, Virginia.” The rest, they say, is history.
Tejpal Singh Gill has spent his entire career with the dealership and has risen through the ranks. “The shop foreman was a very pleasant person, he was very knowledgeable, and he showed me how to be a good technician,” Tej recalls. The novice technician was willing to ask questions and receive help from his supervisor, take training courses, and earn industry certifications from ASE.
“I had another quality that everyone, my shop foreman, service manager, and the owner noticed — I would not sit around when there were no cars to work on. In the first month, I cleaned and organized the shop to the point that one day the owner mentioned to the service manager that there was something different about the shop. The manager told him that it’s the new guy, when he is not working on cars, he is organizing and cleaning the shop, it looks great.”
This dedication has served Tej well as he has risen from an entry-level technician to become a Diagnostic Specialist and now the Shop Foreman. Along the way he availed himself of Lexus training, became a shop leader, participated in industry events, and joined industry groups, culminating in his election to the ASE Board of Directors in 2022.
“A strong work ethic and perseverance accelerated my accomplishments,” Tej observes. “I had been actively involved with the Lexus Diagnostic Specialist Council, and Lexus staff had high regard for me. Lexus Eastern Area office staff approached me that they would like to nominate me for the ASE Advisory Council with my permission in 2019. I agreed and submitted all required information. In late 2021, the President of ASE called me and asked if I would be interested in taking a Director’s position on the Board; I accepted it with honor and today I am celebrating the 50th anniversary of ASE.”
‘‘I am the first Sikh to be selected to the Board of Directors by ASE; what a great honor!” Tej says.
With three decades of experience, Tejpal is a big booster of the profession and has seen its status rise as automobiles and trucks have become more sophisticated. “If a young individual wants to pursue a career in the automotive field, now is a great time because there is a tremendous shortage of qualified technicians. Today’s vehicles are state-of-the-art machines with computer network systems, complex materials fusion, advanced driver-assistance systems, hybrid technology, and more. There is no limit for success in this industry.”
Tej summarizes the role played by ASE’s technician certification program, “ASE not only validates technicians’ skills, knowledge, and ability by testing, it also highlights their commitment and dedication to the profession. It helps employers, service managers/shop foremen look at one’s overall commitment and how serious they are being technicians. ASE’s recertification requirement encourages continuous learning. Today’s vehicles are built with a tremendous amount of technology; keeping up with it is imperative to successfully repairing any issues with the vehicles.”
“I am very pleased with where I am today,” Tej says, reflecting on his journey since arriving in America. Tejpal Singh Gill lives in Northern Virginia with his family and likes walking their dog and observing nature.