Do What You Love - A Life Of Cars
As technical fixers go, Deon Kotze is a bit of a guru. He’s also a student of his craft.
I’m not going to lie; I’m nervous about interviewing Deon Kotze. I’ve heard in advance about Frizelle Sunshine Automotive’s award-winning Group Technical Specialist – about his passion for cars and his innate ability to diagnose and solve technical problems. That’s a daunting prospect for someone of my vehicular incompetence. The man I meet, however, is very different to the one I expect. A quietly-spoken family man, he’s not one to judge or boast. Indeed, he prefers life behind the scenes to the centre of the stage. Don’t be fooled though; this loyal, quiet achiever has spent his career setting goals - and hitting them.
A life of cars
Deon has been ‘playing with cars’ for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in South Africa, he regularly spent time in his father’s mechanic business, and quickly ‘caught the bug’. He studied engineering at a trade college before jumping into an apprenticeship at an Audi dealership. There, he trained hard and progressed to Technician, then Master Technician, while also raising a young family.
Deon and his young family emigrated to Australia in 2008, sponsored by Frizelle Sunshine Automotive (FSA). Eleven years on, the 457 Visa has turned into citizenship and his young children have become young adults. As for Deon, well, he’s enjoyed an impressive career and is happy and fulfilled, doing what he does best. I understand from FSA that he has been promoted through almost every role in Service, and that he’s incredibly well respected and valued across the board. I’m interested to hear that Deon worked and trained hard to become Service Manager but then switched to his current role, Group Technical Specialist. I ask him about it and he reveals an important U-turn, supported by FSA.
“The truth is I didn’t like being Service Manager enough. I do enjoy interacting with customers but I need to balance that with plenty of time working with engines. FSA actually created my current role for me. It plays to my strengths. That’s important to me.”
The go-to guy with targets to hit
Deon now works across the Group, providing top tier support for all its manufacturers, from Audi to Jaguar to Chrysler and Ferrari. He loves the diversity and challenge. He’d never say it but I get the impression he’s the ‘go-to guy’ when no one else can fix the problem. I can’t help but be impressed and it turns out I’m not the only one. FSA have already told me that Deon won the 2009/10 Audi Twin Cup – an elite event for Audi’s very best technicians. I can tell Deon wants to move the conversation on but I’m not letting this one go. I ask him to tell me more.
“You compete against other technicians in your region - for us, it was Australasia. It’s pretty tough. They give you real technical questions and examinations. And they bring in cars with complex faults that you have to diagnose. It was great to win it and go on to represent Audi Australia internationally.”
While some people might see that as a career pinnacle, Deon is keen to kick on. He’s studying again, training to be a Master Technician for Ferrari, with a view to competing in the Ferrari Technical competitions internationally. I wonder out loud what drives him to keep striving.
“I believe you should always set goals to achieve. It can be easy to just fall into a rut, day in day out. For me, that’s quite mundane. I need to keep myself motivated.”
Right person, right place
FSA know they have it good with Deon. However, like all great employee / employer partnerships, he feels grateful too.
“They’ve always supported me with the choices I’ve made and the goals I’ve set. I have a good relationship with the senior staff - we all respect each other, which I really value.”
Deon also appreciates the work life balance he enjoys in a role where he can clearly delineate between work and home. He has a rich and diverse family life, taking in camping, fishing, off-roading and playing basketball with his son. And while the work may stop when he finishes for the day, the engines don’t.
“I spend a fair bit of time building and preparing classic rally and race cars with a group of close friends. It’s great but it’s quite time-consuming, as my wife will tell you!”
Most important by far, however, is the sense of fulfilment Deon gets from his chosen career.
“My passion is cars and I am working with some of the best brands in the world, for one of the best companies in Australia. In life, you’ve got to do what you enjoy. And if you can make a career in it, you’re set.”
Any other advice you’d offer?
“Well, I guess I always try to be of value.”
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 18 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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