Derek Mohart has spent his entire life around cars. Growing up, he notes, his dad owned a variety of different vehicles from a 1932 Hudson Essex to an ‘88 Chevy Crew Cab with an 8’ bed and everything in between. He spent a lot of time as a kid helping his dad with those vehicles. However, when it came time to head off to college, Mohart never dreamed of going to school to become a technician.
“I went to [the University of Missouri] for pre-med in biochemistry,” he says. “I was planning to be a radiologist.”
With this career path, he was planning to follow his mom into the medical field, but after a year full of science and math classes, Mohart found he was losing interest. Over the summer, he went home and started working on his truck and fell in love with doing upgrades and putting aftermarket parts on it. That’s when his passion for the automotive industry really started to grow.
This passion has taken Mohart far in his journey as a technician. With his can-do attitude, penchant for problem-solving, and ability to quickly find ways to improve clunky or outdated processes, it’s no wonder Chris Chesney, vice president of training and organizational development for Repairify, nominated Mohart for this year’s Motor Age and PTEN Best Young Tech Award.
The award is designed to honor technicians aged 35 or younger who are moving the service repair industry forward, excel in their current role, and are passionate about their work.
Finding a place in the industry
Mohart, age 28, has had an interesting career pathway thus far. After graduating from Ranken Technical College with a degree in High Performance Racing Technology, he worked a job diagnosing and rebuilding transmissions as well as doing custom engine work. From there, he began work as a subcontractor for Anheuser-Busch where he performed maintenance, repairs, and diagnostics on Cummins compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. During that time, he also received his Class A CDL. A little further down the road, Mohart became the lead technician at a restoration facility when he was only 23 years old. The young technician dipped his toe into many different facets of the automotive industry before he began working at his current place of employment, asTech.
At asTech, Mohart started as an in-shop technician managing a fleet of cars by using an asTech device and submitting the vehicles for diagnostics to the company’s remote technicians. He also worked to expand his industry knowledge. He went from having two ASE certifications to 12, becoming a certified ASE Master Technician, along with procuring his B2-B5 and C1 certifications.
“As time went on, Derek started learning all the OEM scan tool software and became more efficient at the process,” Chesney notes. “[He] started scanning the vehicles that he was hooking up in the shop, no matter what manufacturer the vehicle was from, [and] eventually became the highest scanning technician in the company, while still managing a shop full of cars.”
Early on in 2020, Mohart’s career shifted once again. This time he found himself working as a remote diagnostic technician. Remote isn’t a word most people think of when it comes to fixing cars, and four years ago when Derek started at asTech, he never thought he’d eventually be a technician working from home.
“It’s a different mindset,” Mohart explains of his transition from in-shop to remote. “You can’t really see what happened, even though the shop will tell you where the damage is, [and] what kind of damage it is. You’ve got to think in different ways once you go remote.”
As was Mohart’s norm throughout his career, Chesney notes that as a diagnostic technician, Mohart focused on becoming the most efficient and best technician he could be. Through that determination, Mohart became the top remote technician in the company within a month. On average, Chesney says Mohart was scanning 80 vehicles a day compared to the company average of 40 to 50 per technician. Eventually, his scanning average hit 100 vehicles per day with an all-time high of 203 scans in one day.
“After becoming efficient in his own work,” Chesney says, “Derek started looking for ways to make everyone around him more efficient.”
All about efficiency
Mohart’s drive to create efficiency in his workplace perfectly set him up for the position he’s working now – continuous process improvement manager.
Though he still jumps into helping with scanning when need be, his current job has him scrutinizing the processes they have in place in order to streamline them, making work a bit easier for everyone.
“Derek's ability to review processes and identify areas of improvement in a short amount of time is unique,” Chesney says. “He brings a 'can-do' attitude to work every day and has become an essential team member on every project in our organization.”
Mohart notes that he’s always worked this way, looking for a different way to do things.
“I've always just kind of tried to find the inefficiencies in everything I do and just find ways to make any processes better,” Mohart explains.
For example, he notes that for his remote office set-up, he has multiple computer screens on his desk. While he worked as a diagnostic technician, he would set the screens up in a way that created a natural flow with the information he was looking at, which helped to create a good working rhythm.
For the love of a challenge
After having worked in many parts of the automotive industry, diagnostics is still Mohart’s favorite part of being a technician.
“One-off instances are my favorite because you just get to dive into the wiring diagrams or the exploded parts view diagram,” Mohart says. “It’s really fun being able to diagnose an issue that nobody else has figured out.”
It’s challenges like these that keep the young tech motivated to continue growing his knowledge as new technology emerges in the industry. Though he notes, now that he’s in a leadership position it’s not just about expanding his own knowledge, it’s about helping others learn as well.
“This industry is ever-changing,” Mohart says. “There’s never day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year — nothing stays the same with automotive.”
For Mohart, it’s about helping the other technicians become better technicians. Looking ahead, he wants to do much of the same — continue learning, build more skills, get more certifications, and just do anything that can help him do his job better, so he can continue helping others be their best.
“[Derek] represents the talent that is in our industry that comes from a traditional path but didn't allow himself to get trapped into a role that many find themselves in,” Chesney says. “His example of continuing to look for a rich challenge to express his skills is worthy of sharing with entry-level technicians as they consider a career in our industry. As well, his path serves as a wake-up call to shop owners and other business owners that they should continue to invest in and stretch the talent on their teams to allow people like Derek to find their best opportunity.”