Maintenance Technician, Electrician, Harley Rider, Dad
Occupation: Maintenance Technician
Resides: Hickory, NC
Family: Wife Simona, children Mikala, Brooke and Micah
Where are you from?
I was born in Romania, so I’m from Europe. I came to the States when I was two. I grew up in Michigan, and I moved here in '03. My parents moved here in the mid-'90s. I was still finishing up school then, and I thought, "I'm a city boy, I don't want to go out to the country." I would visit them, but I always thought, "No, it's not for me." As I got older it started looking better and better, so I made the move. And within the first year of that move, I met my wife and we got married. The good Lord had a plan for me. Being here as long as I have, I can never see myself living anywhere else.
What were you doing in Michigan before you moved?
I was in Dearborn Heights, suburbs outside Detroit. I'm an electrician by trade. I actually went to school for business and management, but then I started doing a little bit of electrical work, and that kind of escalated to doing it full time.
When you moved here, was that the career path you had in mind?
When I moved here, I started doing electrical work again. As that progressed, I got pulled into doing electrical work for a big company, and I worked for a few others as a foreman before coming to ZF for electrical support. That’s how I got my foot in the door with ZF. I did that for a couple of years, and they really enjoyed the way I work and my work ethic, so they offered me a position.
Now I’m a maintenance technician, and I’m a lead technician there. We are a chassis division, so we make the chassis components for a bunch of different auto companies. We have some assembly, but we are mainly CNC machining. When a machine breaks down, they call us. That’s when we come in and address the problem, whether it’s electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, you name it. If it needs to be welded, we weld it. We’re pretty well-rounded. We do it all. It's exciting, it's definitely challenging.
When you say maintenance technician, folks might think it's grabbing a wrench and twisting some bolts here and there and fixing something mechanically. What you're doing requires a level of real technical skill and expertise.
My background is electrical, and we all have our strong points. Another gentleman knows the mechanical aspect of something, or one's really good with hydraulics. We all have our strong suit, but for the most part we're pretty well-rounded.
They offer training here, so I attended mechatronics class and I did get certified. It went over all the skills you need in this type of industry. You need to know how to read prints, you do need to know how to determine the automation. We have robots, so you need to know how to fix an issue with a robot that's not placing the components, or you need to know how to touch up the points. We have accesses that are always getting damaged, so you need to know how to perform a change-out. It's pretty extensive. With time it does get a little easier, because there are recurring problems that you've seen before.
It sounds like you're doing a lot of diagnostic work, which requires problem solving and an intuitive understanding of how things work. How much of your job involves this kind of work?
A lot of it is troubleshooting. You have to think on your toes. Sometimes it's good just to step back, and what I like is that we can lean on each other. If I'm assessing a problem or a breakdown and I'm just racking my brain not knowing, I can go to my coworker and say, "Hey, come here and give me a hand. What do you think? I'm going to step back, give me your thoughts on it." It’s fun. It's definitely a great place to be.
What do you like best about what you do?
You hear people say, "I like an easy day. I don't like to be challenged." But I like a challenge, you know? When I was younger, that's probably what I'd say. But as I'm getting older, easy is kind of boring. I enjoy the challenges. I just love the fact that I can come in here and they have enough trust in me to say, "Hey, you got it?" "Yeah, I got it under control.” And they just let me work on it. They know I'm the kind of guy, if I get lost I'll pull over and ask for directions. So if I need help, "Hey, please give me a hand."
What does being a lead technician involve?
My boss needs a person that he can go to. It’s like that in every company. Every shift change, there's a pass down from the shift prior where we talk through our breakdown assessment. Then my boss will come to me for the update. Sometimes we have issues we've never seen before. If we have to call an outside contractor, part of my role is to contact them and get their thoughts on the problem.
What does life look like for you outside of work? You have a young family, so you probably have your hands full.
We do, but they're great kids. I'm a church-goer, so I'm heavy in the church. I was a youth leader for many, many years. Right now we're just enjoying the kids, and they're at a crucial age, so I'm trying to devote as much time as I can with them. They’re eight, ten and 12, so it’s busy.
My eight year old, I just got him into dirt bikes last year so he's turning it up. We have big hills across from the house. My cousin actually owns it, it's almost ten acres. So yeah, we tear up that field. He's a sporty kid, so he likes skateboarding, biking, and this and that. My daughters, my oldest, she's into music. She's been playing piano since she was four, so she's very good at playing piano. My middle one, she's our sporty one full of life and laughter, always willing to lend a hand first, a true nurturer. She's finding her groove as she gets older.
My wife is great, I just couldn't see life without her. She’s a substitute teacher mainly at Mountain View Elementary. They love her, so they’ve got her on lock down. She's got a degree in child development, so kids just respond to her.
How did you meet your wife?
She's Romanian also, and she came to the states when she was seven. When I moved here, my aunt said something to me about her. I just got out of a bad relationship. I was trying to move and re-establish myself, and that was the furthest thing from my mind. She gave me her number and it sat in my wallet for a long time. Finally I thought, I'm not really connected with anybody here. Maybe I could make a friend, worst case. We hit it off. I think the first night we talked for three hours.
We decided we were not going to send pictures of each other, we were going to get to know each other first. We'll let those emotions stir, and then the first time we see each other is going to be in person. She came to visit with her sister and her nieces. You can imagine the emotion because I was picking her up from my aunt's house with her, her sister and her three nieces, all sitting there. I don't know who is who, you know? It was a very memorable meeting. We just connected right away. You know when you meet somebody and it just flows? I tell people all the time, when you meet the right person it's not going to be difficult to connect, so you have to be selective and wait for the right person.
Do you and your wife try to stay in touch with your culture?
The Romanian community is really tight. Because we're Pentecostal, that group of Pentecostal Romanians has a lot of culture, too. If you talk to a bunch of Romanians who have settled here and you mention someone back in Romania, they'll know exactly who you're talking about. We're just that tight knit.
Her dad was a big evangelist, and he would travel all over playing the accordion and talking about the Lord. He was persecuted and he was beaten, he was thrown in jail. We’re talking about Romania in the '50s and '60s, it was a communist country. He’s in his late 80s now, bless his heart. But man, he's got some stories. People knew his name, and my parents knew all about him. When my wife’s family lived in California we actually visited them, that's the funny part. I don't remember because I was young, but my mom told her mom, “I’m going to take one of these girls from you, you know?" Sure enough, she did.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to ride, so I'm a Harley guy. My bike is an older Ironhead, last year of the Ironheads. It's fully restored. I call it Blueberry because it's blue. It's a good little bike. It's in the blood. When you're in the hustle and bustle of things, it's just good therapy. You hit the road, you don't think of anything else when you're on the bike. When I come to work, I always take the back ways. Wherever I go, I always take the secondary roads because you want to enjoy the ride. Especially here in North Carolina, there’s nothing like it. You can hit 321 and go up to the mountains. It’s spectacular.
What other things do you do with your free time?
Fitness has always been super important. I try to exercise at least three, four times a week. I was going to the Y, but I would be working out and thinking I should be spending that time with my children. I was able to piece together a pretty extensive home gym, so that’s where I work out now. The kids see it and they want to come. Kids are going to do what they see. If they see you making something a priority, they grow up knowing that’s important.
Now I’m working out in the morning. I've done it before, but I was never really this religious about it, so to speak. But I see the benefits of it. You're done, it’s out of the way, and you kind of kick start your morning. It just allows you to focus better. It seems like I get a little bit more time in the morning, just because of how early I get up and I'm not being rushed. And then if I need to read or if I need to do something, I can go through the good book, read the Bible here and there, and just get a good devotional in. I always say conquer the mornings. It seems to be working.
We're pretty active. We bike and we go for walks. In the winter we snowboard, so we're always out and about. My son's got a BMX bike, so I got a BMX and now we're doing wheelies together. He's got a skateboard, so I got a skateboard because he’ll say, "You didn't give me a brother, so come out and play.”
What's life like for you as a dad?
There's no “How to Be a Good Dad 101” book, I wish there was. It’s trial and error, but it's definitely a blessing. I'm blessed beyond words to be able to raise a family, and that I can provide for them, and that they are good kids, they love the Lord, and that they do have good morals that we try to instill. At some point you just do your best as a parent and hope that they are learning from all the things we've been teaching them, and what they see us doing.
How do you feel about this community as a place to raise kids?
I just built a house three years ago in Mountain View, Hickory. I love Mountain View, I love where I'm at. I just love it. My parents are two miles down the road, my sister lives two miles the other way. So they're all here. It's community, its home.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
Gosh, the million-dollar question. Five, ten years? I really don't know. My thing is, I'm governed by the good Lord's will, so whatever his will is, is right now. Right now I'm here. Will I be here in five years? I don't know. But wherever I'll be, I'm sure it will be the next step of my progression, you know?
I'll probably be involved in something with my hands, because I love working with my hands and creating. I wish I could open up a custom Harley shop and just build bikes all day. That would be fun.
I think we forget to just sit back and breathe and really enjoy the moment we’re in. As long as you look back in a couple of years and say, "Hey, did I progress? Whatever I'm doing, if I'm trying to achieve better financially, maybe better spiritually, maybe better physically, am I getting better?" If you are, then I think you're moving in the right direction.
It sounds like you’re having a really good moment right now.
Yeah, it's good. Everything's falling into place. I'm really blessed. That word could sum up my life. I’m really blessed, and very thankful God is good.