Thomas Monkiewicz, an automotive technology student at San Jacinto College, spends his mornings in class at the College's Central Campus and his afternoons under the hoods of luxury cars.
The 25-year-old's interest in the automotive industry began at a young age, learning basic car maintenance from his father.
"My dad always emphasized that he wanted me to be able to work on my own car and not have to pay someone to do it for me. I started doing oil changes and tire rotations in middle school," Monkiewicz said.
Then in 2012, he and a group of friends built a business selling used BMW parts in the warehouse district of Houston.
"We rented out a 4,000-square-foot warehouse and started parting cars. We became pretty popular on BMW Facebook groups, and I really loved the work," said Monkiewicz. "I was going to college at the time, just taking my basics without much direction. That's when I realized I wanted to make my hobby my career."
Monkiewicz, who will graduate from San Jacinto College next May with an associate degree and certifications, has been working as an intern at Motowerks Auto Group near the Galleria since January 2019 and is looking at a guaranteed full-time job upon graduation.
"I knew I needed to get an internship to gain some real-world experience while I'm still in school, so I started cold calling different places, including Motowerks. I called asking if they needed and intern and got a call back the next week.," Monkiewicz said. "I love this job, and the hands-on experience is so valuable. Everything here is held to a higher standard. You have to work clean, be accurate, and pay attention to every detail."
The clientele at Motowerks are owners of luxury vehicles often worth $100,000 or more.
"The first week I was at Motowerks, I had to install a spoiler on a Ferrari. We had to drill into the body, which was scary but necessary for the job," Monkiewicz said. "I've worked a lot on our owner's McLaren, adding ice tanks, coilovers, and cooling fans for the transmission. He races the car, so we have to make sure it's always in great shape."
Monkiewicz is expecting to stay in the maintenance field forever, looking toward bigger and more lucrative goals.
"I would love to open my own shop one day, maybe five or 10 years down the road. I need to save up money and get more experience first," Monkiewicz said. "I'd like to transition into the performance and tuning world. It would be a great feeling to see my work translated directly to the track."
Learn more about San Jac's automotive technology programs.