Automotive Technology program helps car lovers turn their passion into a career

posted on Monday, February 13, 2023 in  College News

Ask Cody Engen why he chose a career as an automotive technician, and his answer is simple.

“I’ve loved cars ever since I was a kid,” said Engen, a service tech for John Deery Motors in Cedar Falls. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else” 

Zach Abbas feels the same way. Growing up in Garner, Iowa, Abbas was always working on cars, so a career in the auto industry seemed natural. 

For both, the path to that career began at Hawkeye Community College. 

Both Abbas and Engen enrolled in the Automotive Technology program, which prepares students for entry-level careers in automotive and vehicle repair, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Through hands-on learning in the college’s automotive lab, students gain skills in automotive electronics; testing and diagnosing; automotive transmissions; gas engines; suspension; alignment; and more. 

The instructors have years of industry experience and are well-connected with local employers, who regularly visit campus to recruit new hires. In fact, within a few weeks of starting classes, Engen was hired in the express oil change department at John Deery. After graduating in 2016, he was promoted to a service technician. 

“I am responsible for diagnosing any car that comes to my bay, repairing it properly, and then making sure the repair is done,” Engen said. “I think it’s cool that something is completely broken, and I can fix it. The customer’s happy, and they can come back for services or whatever else.”

Abbas, who graduated in 2021, also started out doing oil changes before taking on more technical work and eventually becoming a service advisor for John Deery Nissan. Now, he’s meeting with customers to identify their concerns and connecting them to the right technicians.

“I absolutely love being able to talk to everybody that comes through the door,” he said. “You build a lot of relationships with customers so they want to work with you. They want to talk to you when they come in. That’s awesome to me.”

Both Abbas and Engen enjoy working on projects on their own time too, providing a sense of validation that turning a lifelong passion into a career was the right choice. 

“Honestly, I’d say every day when I get done with work, I go home and work on my own personal car,” Engen said. “So even working on cars all day long, I still want to go home and do that. I think that’s the perfect thing. I’m happy every day.”

For more information about the Automotive Technology program at Hawkeye Community College, call 319-296-4000, or visit


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