Photo by Grace Goldman
There are few students who can say that going to work is just like going to school.
But for senior Alex Masson, his sixth and seventh hour classes spent in the Auto Tech room transition seamlessly into his part-time job. Right after school, from Monday to Thursday, Masson heads to the Premier Mazda of Overland Park dealership.
Sophomore year, Masson took his first Auto Tech class simply because he heard it would be fun. Although he had no prior interest in cars, he kept taking classes as his passion steadily grew. Now, with two Auto Tech classes, a part-time job at a dealership and the odd occasions when he helps out others outside of school, Masson has become incredibly involved in his relatively new hobby.
This year, after learning about the basics and the theoretic aspects of car tuning, Masson finally has the chance to apply theory to real life in Auto Tech 3. Some students bring in their own cars, like senior Ian Armstrong and his white Subaru. They also help work on cars brought by the teacher, Brian Gay, and his friends, such as a blue Porsche Carrera and a gray Porsche Cayman.
At the dealership, where Masson started working in August as a porter who moves cars around in the parking lot, he sees a more professional twist on the same thing. In fact, the biggest difference from school might lie in his co-workers.
“[The hardest part] is definitely dealing with all the egos there. Because, if you’re fifty years old and you’ve worked in a shop your entire life, and some kid walks in with flower shoes, you’re not really gonna like him much,” Masson said, waving a hand at the light floral print on his Nike Janoskis.
Masson does mildly as both the newest and the youngest — the closest in age is 22 years old — but at least he’s confident in the abilities he gained from Auto Tech at school. While a porter technically just drives cars around, Masson has done everything from changing oil to changing brake pads to actually detailing and selling cars.
“Knowing how to do pretty much anything to a car, and not being very stupid about it, has helped a lot,” Masson said. “I’ve seen [workers] come in there at like 25, and they can’t even change their own oil, which is ridiculous for working in a shop.”
He also takes pride in being the longest-lasting porter working at the dealership. Since he started working in August, three other porters have come and gone.
“[Another way the class has helped me] at work is probably just how to take jokes,” Masson said. “Basically [at] my job, everybody just picks on you because you’re the bottom of the food chain. Mr. Gay and I joke around a lot, and that has definitely helped me out in the real world.”
All the fascinating cars Masson has been able to drive around the lot as part of his porter job is a step up from just working on them in Auto Tech class every day. Masson’s own little white Mazda Miata sitting in the East parking lot hardly compares to the cars he’s driven as a porter. He has sat in the driver’s seat of everything from an expensive BMW M5 to an Alpha Romeo 4C to the yellow Ford Focus that Masson fondly remembers from playing “Need for Speed: Underground Round II” as an 8-year-old.
However, Masson’s current career goal doesn’t lie with cars, but another interest he’s been cultivating with the same laid-back dedication.
“In the beginning of the year, if you had asked me [if I planned to work with cars after graduating], I probably would have said yes. But now I’m definitely aiming more for computer engineering,” Masson said. “I always like to say that pretty much anything that starts with a ‘C’ is my hobby: cars, computers, coffee…”
He sees common ground between the two fields in the newest and most advanced cars on the market, which Masson calls “computers on wheels,” such as the BMW M5 that Auto Tech worked on recently. And, despite his change of heart, Masson will also pursue computer engineering with the same immersive mindset he took with Auto Tech.
“I found that I’ve recently fallen in love with coding and that whole dimension as it’s something I don’t really understand, and I’m excited to learn everything I possibly can,” Masson said. “My favorite thing to do is to learn how things work and slowly get to a level where I can say I’m proficient in it.”