Drive and a dream: Caleb DeKeyser’s life working in luxury

Every year, two select groups of 12 people are chosen to spend six months in the Golden State with a goal of becoming certified Porsche technicians. Imagine Caleb DeKeyser’s excitement when Porsche chose him for the program—thanks, in part, to an Automotive Technology degree and guidance from Ivy Tech Fort Wayne faculty.

Caleb DeKeyser | ’21 Automotive Tech Grad; provided by Caleb DeKeyser

Caleb describes his experience at the Porsche Technology Apprenticeship Program (PTAP) as a “bootcamp” for all things Porsche. It involves spending half a year in California while living in housing the company provides and dedicating nearly every day to working on cars. He says the knowledge he gained there could’ve filled an entire year. But when you work with Porsche, it’s quality over everything else.

“It’s basically everything that’s within other car companies magnified times ten because you’re not working on a $20,000 car, you’re working on a $200,000 car,” Caleb says.

It wasn’t just luck that earned him his place in PTAP. Hard work got him to where he is today, a trait he’s carried from a young age.

As an early teen, the Michigander saved up money to buy a dirt bike. He says he and his brother liked to tinker with and modify it. From dirt bikes, they experimented with four-wheelers before moving on to cars. Caleb loved working with all aspects of it, from maintenance to performance.

“We liked going fast, the thrill of it, and when I bought cars, I’d always liked going off-roading and driving fast.”

Working with performance cars became his dream. So, when his parents moved from northern Michigan to Angola, Ind., he went off to Tennessee for college in hopes of making that dream come true. He was only there a year before he needed a change, so he opted for a school close to home: Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne.

Caleb didn’t foresee himself working with luxury cars, but he put in the work for an Automotive Technology technical certificate. Not only did he squeeze three semesters into two, but he also worked part time while commuting to and from Angola.

Porsche Technology Apprenticeship Program (PTAP) in California; provided by Caleb DeKeyser

“If you pay attention and get as much out of it as you can, then you can do some damage in the shop.”

His effort paid off as teachers took notice. Caleb credits automotive instructor Paul Wright for noticing the work he was putting in and helping him land his dream opportunity. He says Wright got him in contact with Porsche Fort Wayne, where Caleb began working with the Audi’s while continuing his education. PTAP gave him a career boost, and he’s now a fully certified Porsche technician.

At 23, he’s living a life many people dream about: happily married, a soon-to-be father, and working a job he loves while living without college debt. But Caleb’s ambition is still strong, and he hopes one day he can open his own shop.

For those pursuing a similar path, he offers this advice: pay attention in class, work hard, and don’t let buying tools bring you into debt.

Crashing through barriers: Mariana Garcia takes on the world of collision repair

Mariana Garcia stumbled across her love of cars by accident. Though she didn’t have prior experience in the field, taking vocational automotive classes seemed like a fun way to bypass regular classes. What she didn’t predict: breaking the mold as a Hispanic woman pursuing a career in collision repair.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get where she is today. Mariana works as an estimator with Gerber Collision after spending a few years working in an auto shop at a Ford Dealership in her hometown of Kendallville. In her current role, she acts as a liaison between customers and insurance companies after there’s been an accident.

“A lot of people request a man’s opinion,” she shares. “I run into that a lot, but my manager just backs me up.”

According to DATA USA, the collision repair industry is made up of more than 90% men. While those numbers cause unfair stereotypes for women, Mariana says men face them, too. She believes this can be a career for anyone.

“I would like for more people to see that you don’t have to be that stereotype. I think anyone should do it just cause it’s fun and something great to learn.”

Beyond public opinion, Mariana’s parents also weren’t interested in the idea of their daughter working with cars because it didn’t fit their cultural norms. She says her mother would be embarrassed to tell their family in Mexico about her passion. Mariana took a gap year after high school trying to convince herself to do something else, but her love for the automotive industry won out, and she ended up close to home at Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne.

Mariana joined the Automotive Technology program and specialized in Collision Repair. It’s a hands-on program that allows students to gain experience with the latest technology and builds proficiency in basic automotive maintenance. She says they went through everything from painting to body work. Mariana graduated with an A.A.S. in Automotive Technology in 2017 and was awarded a technical certificate in Auto Body Repair later that year.

Looking back, she’s grateful for the help of professors like Nick Goodnight, assistant department chair of Diesel Technology, Bob Huffman, department chair of Automotive Technology, and Jaron Grayless, former instructor and current manager at Gerber Automotive, who would take the time to sit down with her and other students one-on-one to go over questions they might have had about class material.

After working in the field for a few years, Mariana says what she learned at Ivy Tech prepared her for working in auto body shops, the front office, and could eventually boost her up to management, which is her goal. However, she aspires to be the best at what she’s doing now before she gets to that point, hoping to break the misconceptions some people have about the field.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m accepted. But showing my work ethic and knowledge, I feel like they’re left speechless.”

Today, Mariana has her parents’ support. She says they think what she’s doing is “cool”. She hopes her story will inspire others who are thinking about going into the automotive industry to forget the stereotypes and take the leap. It’s a growing field that’s constantly in demand. To other women who think they might want to pursue a similar career, Mariana offers this advice:

“Be patient, be confident, and be okay with failing.”

Alumna Jael Jones carves out her ideal healthcare career with surgical precision

Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne’s Surgical Technology program launched in fall 2019 with a cohort of five students. Since then, the program has grown to 14 students and moved into a renovated space that mimics a real operating room! Even more impressive, the students in the first program were immediately successful. They boasted a 100% pass rate on their surgical technology certification exams and each student was offered a job before they graduated.

One of the first cohort, Jael Jones, shared her experiences in the program and her path to success as a surgical technologist at Lutheran Health. Jael didn’t know immediately that she wanted to become a surgical technologist. In fact, when she first came to Ivy Tech in 2016, she didn’t even know what a surgical technologist was. But she has always been drawn to healthcare.

“I enrolled in the nursing program, and while I realized soon after that nursing wasn’t for me, it did make me realize there were more healthcare jobs than just nursing. I became a CNA and a phlebotomist through Ivy Tech. Then I started working toward my Biology TSAP, when I heard about the surgical technology program.”

Jael applied for the program after speaking with surgical technologists in the field, was accepted, and graduated in summer 2021. She now works as a surgical technologist at Lutheran Health, assisting on surgeries that include traumas, cardiovascular complications, lacerations, and more.

“I love anatomy. As a surgical technologist, I get to take part in actual surgeries. You realize how delicate the human body is and get to help fix it. Ivy Tech was great because it allowed me to become a surgical technologist in a quality program that was more affordable than other colleges.”

Though she currently enjoys her work as a surgical technologist, Jael is always looking for the next step. She’s working on getting a bachelor’s degree in biology and eventually hopes to become a physician’s assistant.

To anyone interested in the Surgical Technology program, Jael advises them to do what she did and test the waters first. “Don’t jump into it right away. You can quickly earn a CNA certificate and see if the field is right for you! You can also visit a hospital and see how things work or just talk to someone. Do what I did. Reach out to a surgical technician and see if they’re willing to talk about their experiences. There are a lot of options in healthcare. Take your time and see which one works for you.”

To learn more about Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s Surgical Technology program, visit IvyTech.edu/surgical-technology.