Get Your Tech!

Before I became acquainted with what was under the hood of my car, I saw automotive repair as dirty, unappealing, and overwhelmingly complex; something only highly trained specialists should be doing. Modifying and fixing things on a vehicle could potentially be lethal if done incorrectly, right? Certainly nothing I had any business being involved with. As it turns out, the sheer onslaught of sensory stimulation of fixing broken things on my car left me with a serious romance with jumping into my second hand, chemical valley, coveralls and getting my hands impossibly dirty. It also gave me the courage to start what would become a career in tech and left me feeling incredibly empowered.

Metal is cold, and sharp, and stubborn. My fingers, rough with work, harden as much as they can to meet metal edges and turn threads. Gasoline is intoxicating and familiar and the smell seeps deeply into the leather interior. The bright green of coolant enters the nose sick and sweet of maple syrup when it burns. Spent oil, warm, dark, glossy, and acrid in smell. The locked in, candy like, redness of transmission fluid eludes me and I have always been happy to leave it contained-for now.

These fluids have their own dedicated chambers and tunnels and are pushed into small crevices of the engine to ignite, lubricate, and cool. They are not meant to mix in modern engines and when they do, the sharp gloss of oil foams and breaks in a brown film atop the once clear green of the coolant in the reservoir and white smoke emerges. This is not a good sign. Oil is mixing with coolant and the thin seals on the gasket are compromised; the fluids are going where they are not meant to go. This changes their properties and makes them not function as they are meant to. The aluminum head of a 91’ Saab 900S is connected to a steel engine block. Aluminum is light, but is weak against the heat of the unforgiving block that pushes indicators to alarm. When the aluminum eventually warps, from neglect of aforementioned alarms, the gasket can no longer mediate.

When the head gasket of my first car needed to be replaced I did not know why and I did not have the thousands of dollars required to have it repaired. Online forums and parts depots whispered promise and I spent the $200 US to buy the shop manual. I can do this, right? Tools are expensive and gracious men in my life offered not only tools and encouragement, but the space and time I needed.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that my new found interest garnered fascination by most. For a long time I was entertained by the reactions I got, being in coveralls, from people that clearly felt I was out of context and even more entertained when they realized I could speak the ‘language’. There is a sort of double take men do when you can talk about torque wrenches and ignition timing as a woman. Just be warned that you are now open to unsolicited advice and do not listen when they tell you to drop a Chevy small block into your Saab. The truth is I got my tech when it comes to automobiles and their sub-systems.

This knowledge has made me less of a target to unscrupulous car repair shops, and pushy salesmen. I know I can order the parts I need for less, when I don’t have time to do the repair myself, and I now have the ability to tell them what I want done. Let's repeat that last part: I now have the ability to tell them what I want done.

This is huge, because I am now empowered to make the decisions and understand what I want.  

Knowing my tech became a bit of an obsession and I wanted to know more about everything. This eventually resulted in another round of post-secondary education in Electronics Engineering which would pave the way for a career in semiconductors and high tech display systems.

So...Get your tech!

Are you a musician or singer? Learn the editing software and hardware used to record and produce your music and be able to communicate specifically what you want or don’t want in a mix or arrangement.

Are you teacher? Learn about the latest technologies being implemented in the classroom and be the one able to effectively advocate their implementation to better help your students.

Are you an artist or photographer? Learn about how to build your own website to showcase your work to the world and even sell it online.

Are you in medical or social science? Dig into the data management and database security that keeps all your medical and health records secure and safe.

Do you work in an office/team environment? Find out how smart apps like Trello, Slack, and OneNote that you can use to keep you and your team better organized and facilitate better communication.

Are you passionate about having an online presence? Dive deeper into analytics and the algorithms used to calculate them to decide the best way to connect to your audience.

That last one is on my to do list.

It doesn’t matter what you do, just don’t limit your abilities and your success because you don’t know how something works. Be curious. Ask questions about the things you don’t know. This might make you feel vulnerable, but when you gain the power of knowledge you will stop caring what other people think. The world becomes a little less scary and a whole lot more in your control when you understand how it really works; or in the case of my Saab, how it didn’t work.


**The photo for this post is literally the exact moment my car started after I replaced the entire engine. Not sure you can see it, but I was bursting with pride. Share your own story about being empowered by technology in the comments below.