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Tejpal (Tej) Singh Gill, a Diagnostic Specialist/Shop Foreman at a busy automotive dealership in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (www.ase.com), the non- profit organization that conducts national certification tests for automotive technicians. Behind this honor is a thirty-year career of increasing responsibility and service. Tej, himself an ASE Certified Master Technician, serves as a quiet role model for young people entering the profession, and his example of hard work and faith should inspire all.

“I was born and raised in Village Dhudike, District Moga, Punjab, India,” Tej explains. “We were a farming family and I worked on farm equipment with my uncles all the time and I enjoyed it very much. My formal education was all in the village from primary, higher secondary and two years of college. I was the first boy in the family to go to college. There was no one to guide or an example to follow for which degree I should pursue, so I followed most other students taking the easy way, choosing Bachelor of Arts Economics degree path. In middle school, I chose Agriculture Mechanics elective courses and learned basic mechanical concepts of diesel engines, tractors, cultivating and harvesting equipment. One summer, I worked in my uncle’s garage helping on diesel truck repairs. I am very pleased with where I am today,” Tej reflects. Tej’s mother and great grandfather, whose standing was such that “Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindran Wale and the Jatha always came to our house and blessed us with Kirtan and Guru Shabad,” were major influences, but as a young man Tej began to drift. “I didn’t want to be seen as a religious person and I always wanted to cut my hair—I think now that was the worst thing I ever did. I see a lot of the youth in today’s Punjab doing what I wanted to do and look like Bollywood heroes and modern singers.”

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Arriving in America in 1984 Tej was still adrift but eventually landed a job as a production supervisor with a manufacturer of printed circuit boards. “It was decent job, it paid well, but it soon started to feel like just a job” to the 30-year-old. Tej was looking for a calling while pursuing his day job and taking engineering courses at night. One day Tej was taking his car in for an oil change and thought that owning and running a repair shop would be ideal. This eventually led to him and a friend enrolling in an automotive technician training program in Landover, Md. Both graduated 18 months later. His friend got a job quickly, but Tej was not getting interviews and was growing discouraged after months of looking for a position. “I was very anxious and depressed. My mother talked with me one day and encouraged me that I had been working very hard and should not worry-- everything happens according to Waheguru’s Will, Waheguru always takes care of everyone, that I should not be sad or worried, when the time comes, I would find an appropriate opportunity. It didn’t seem like that would happen, but her words gave me warm feelings and hope. And she was right.” A few days later “my answering machine had a message from the service manager from Pohanka Lexus of Chantilly, Virginia,”—a high-end dealership servicing Toyota’s luxury line of automobiles. The rest, they say, is history.

“Getting into the car business was a desperate attempt to find myself, to identify myself, to show that I was somebody that could make a good living and provide for his family.” Tej has done all that and more. Tejpal Singh Gill has spent his entire career with Pohanka Lexus and risen through the ranks. “The shop foreman at Pohanka Lexus was a very pleasant person, he was very knowledgeable, and he showed me the path,” Tej recalls. The novice technician was willing to ask questions and receive help from his foreman, take training courses, and earn industry certifications from ASE. “I had another quality that everyone, my shop foreman, service manager and the owner noticed -- I would not sit around when there were no cars to work on. I would pick up trash, clean up the tire changer section, brake lathe machines and use the floor scrubber machine to clean the shop floor. In the first month, I cleaned and organized the shop to the point that one day the owner mentioned to the service manager that there was something different about the shop. The manger told him that it’s the new guy, when he is not working on cars, he is organizing and cleaning the shop, it looks great.”

This dedication has served Tej well as he has risen from an entry-level technician to become a Diagnostic Specialist and now the Shop Foreman. Along the way he availed himself of Lexus training, became a shop leader, participated in industry events, and joined industry groups, culminating in his election to the ASE Board of Directors in 2022. “A strong work ethic and perseverance accelerated by accomplishments,” Tej observes. “I had been actively involved with the Lexus Diagnostic Specialist Council, and Lexus staff had high regard for me. Lexus Eastern Area office staff approached me that they would like to nominate me for the ASE Advisory Council with my permission in 2019. I agreed and submitted all required information. I did not know if I was selected or not until the day before the Board of Governors meeting June 2020. This was in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I attended my first ASE Board of Governors meeting on a virtual platform. Sadly, Mr. Jack Pohanka [owner of the Pohanka dealership group and himself a founder of ASE] passed away few days before that meeting. I know he would have been proud of me for becoming a member of the ASE Board of Governors. In late 2021, the President of ASE called me and asked if I would be interested in taking a Director’s position on the Board; I accepted it with honor and today I am celebrating the 50 th anniversary of ASE.”

‘‘I am the first Sikh to be selected to the Board of Directors by ASE; what a great honor! Waheguru created the path for me,” Tej says With three decades of experience, Tej is a big booster of the profession and has seen its status rise as automobiles and trucks have become more sophisticated. “If a young individual wants to pursue a career in the automotive field, now is a great time because there is a tremendous shortage of qualified technicians. Today’s vehicles are state-of-the-art machines with computer network systems, complex materials fusion, advanced driver assistance systems, hybrid technology, and more. If one wants to be successful in this industry, they should be honest with themselves and put in the effort required and focus on long-term success. There is no limit for success in this industry, there are so many different paths within this industry, including engineering and design. Do not hold yourself back, it is a very rewarding career.”

Tejpal Singh Gill lives in Northern Virginia with his family and likes walking their dog, observing nature and remains thankful for his blessings. “I try to do my Nitname regularly, try to understand Guru’s message, and thank him for everything he has blessed me with--family, life,health, knowledge, and success.”
“Listening to Kirtan gives me so much joy, it’s indescribable. Sometimes, I take our dog to theriver (about a mile away from our home), there is a sitting area, some benches near the riverbank, it’s a very quiet and a peaceful place. I watch the birds chirping and flying around and the deer grazing the fresh leaves and grass, occasionally looking up at us with their ears pointed toward us and fog over the water--the beautiful creation of the Akaal Purkh.”

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