PTEN and Motor Age magazines have teamed up with TechForce Foundation to help spotlight some young technicians in the automotive industry in hopes we can inspire more individuals to pursue careers as automotive technicians.
When COVID-19 hit, Hayden Cook was working as an accountant in California, handling accident claims for people injured in car crashes. After a month during lockdown, Cook was laid off and left to find a job in a time of uncertainty.
Prior to working as an accountant, Cook spent the last 10 years jumping around jobs simply working for a paycheck and not actually enjoying the work at hand. So, he took this time to reevaluate what he wanted in life and to “hit a reset button”.
Having always had a passion for cars and now with a new outlook on life, Cook decided to contact a Universal Technical Institute (UTI) recruiter to kickstart a career in automotive.
Right from the start, Cook set his ultimate sight on getting into the Porsche Technology Apprenticeship Program (PTAP). However, without any prior training or work experience in automotive he knew it was going to take some time.
He decided to start his journey at NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina.
“In March of 2021, only five days after my 30th birthday, I walked in for my first day of class that was going to reshape the rest of my life,” Cook says.
After successfully completing the core program and then the Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) program with top honors, he felt ready to apply to PTAP.
His hard work paid off and was accepted into the program.
Upon excelling once again, the young tech completed the program, graduating top four of his class, and shortly after he accepted a position as a Certified Porsche Technician with Porsche West Broward in Florida.
“I couldn’t be happier with my new career, and I truly love coming to work every day,” Cook says. “I work on some of the rarest and coolest cars on earth and each day I find myself in the cockpit of quarter-million-dollar sports cars.
There are no easy days, but I go home and I’m satisfied with what I’m doing and proud of the work that I put out there and the people that I’ve met so far.”
Q&A with Cook
PTEN sat down with Cook to learn more on his experience and to hear what advice he would give others looking to pursue the automotive industry.
What were some challenges you faced getting to where you are at right now?
I had never worked on cars before attending NASCAR Tech. The most advanced thing I’ve done was change the oil on my Honda Civic. Most people who attended NASCAR Tech already had a vocational background or they’ve been doing this their whole life. I was very much a green horn. I think that actually benefitted me because instead of dismissing half of what the instructors were telling you because you think you know it, I was sitting there like a sponge trying to absorb everything, and I ended up with 10 Student of the Course awards and 16 Director’s Honors awards. I also ended up graduating top of my class from NTI and from the Ford FACT program and was top four of my PTAP class.
The biggest challenge though was being 30 years old and starting my career over and the whole paradigm shift of uprooting my life. Hitting 30 is a daunting mark and then to add starting a whole new career that you know virtually nothing about was even more daunting.
Also, just being a student again. I hadn’t been a student since high school. It was a different atmosphere and a different environment.
What was the best advice you received during your journey?
The most consistent advice from my instructors was to keep your axe to the grindstone and keep putting the effort forward. Just keep being yourself, put yourself out there and network, and make a good name for yourself in the industry.
What would you tell young individuals considering the automotive field?
When you’re passionate about something it makes it all the easier to learn that skill, learn that industry, and enjoy what you do every day. There’s no point in working yourself to the bone just for a paycheck. Obviously, people need money to survive but having done it before it’s a pretty hollow existence when all you’re doing is working for a paycheck.
What I’m doing now, I love coming to work every day. I love getting to work on these cars. I love the challenge of it.
The best piece of advice I can give to others is that if it’s your passion then pursue it. Make a plan and set a goal. What helped me through my training is that I had my eye on the prize the entire time. My overall goal was to get into PTAP but I had little goals that I set for myself to get there. Setting those incremental goals really helps. I think people focus so much on the big picture that they lose sight on the moment that they are in and that’s how people get overwhelmed and burnt out.
If this is what you want to do, do it.
What certificates have you earned so far?
- Ford Technician Credentials: NVH Diagnosis (30S06T0), Engine Performance Theory and Operations (31S31T0), Engine Performance Diagnosis and Testing (31S32T0), Engine Diagnosis and Repair (32S09T0), Steering and Suspension Diagnosis (33S15T0), Electrical Diagnosis and Repair (34S14T1), Electronics Diagnosis and Repair (34S19T2), Advanced Climate Control Systems Diagnosis (35S05T0) Brake System Diagnosis and Repair (38S07T1), Advanced Brake Systems Diagnosis and Service (38S08T1), and Diesel Engine Performance Diagnosis (51S15T0)
- Ford Quick Service and Light Repair Training
- Ford Quick Lane Level I Certification
- Ford Quick Lane Technician Skills Training
- EPA 609 Certification
- ALLDATA Certification
- ASE Certifications: A6 and A8
Do you plan on completing any more in the future?
The ultimate goal is to be what's considered a gold certified Porsche technician. So, there's three levels: bronze, silver, and gold. PTAP is nice because it gives you all the requirements to basically go straight to silver, but they still require you to take the test and the practical exam to get both of those certifications. I'll be taking the test this fall for my bronze certification and then sometime next year I plan on taking my silver certification and then possibly the year after that going for a gold certification.
I would also like to get more ASE certifications.
What are your plans for the future?
For the foreseeable future I want to stay with Porsche. I mean, I chose them for a reason. I've had great affection for the company for a very long time. For now, Porsche is my life and will remain that way.
I do have ambition to pursue a degree in engineering at some point and possibly go into the engineering side of Porsche. I would love the opportunity to work for the company itself and possibly even in the factory. I'd like to stay with Penske organization as long as possible, they've been very good to me.
When I feel time is right to maybe settle back into something else then maybe teach at NTI will be in my future but for now, I'm focused on Porsche.