From Airplanes to Self-Driving: The Troubleshooting Service Technician

By | May 21, 2020

This story is a part of “We Are Argo,” an ongoing series featuring unique stories and diverse experiences from Argo AI employees. Read more about “We Are Argo” and meet additional members of the Argo team here.

Irving Tejocote, Service Technician, Argo AI

Growing up in Texas, Irving’s family business was built on the assumption that cars will, inevitably, crash and someone will be needed to fix them. But as Irving learned watching his father, brothers, and uncles work in auto body shops, life in the collision business isn’t easy. “It takes a lot out of you,” he says. “At 30, your back hurts, your arms hurt. You get worn out pretty quickly.”

He decided he was going to be the one to break the cycle. After a year in the family business himself, Irving joined the Air Force as an aircraft technician.

In his ten years in the aviation industry, Irving had a chance to tinker with every kind of plane, from fighter jets to corporate aircrafts to military drones. Sometimes, when he finished a particularly difficult repair, the grateful pilot would even invite him up for a spin in the sky. The high-stakes job was a thrill. As he puts it: “If a vehicle breaks down, you can just pull it over to the side of the road. If an airplane breaks down, there is no side of the road.”

When Irving was first contacted by an early stage self-driving car company, he was intrigued by the idea of a field that could eliminate collisions once and for all. Once he got to know the technology, he was hooked. When the company closed its doors, he set out to find an autonomous vehicle company that would be around for the long haul. That’s when he discovered Argo, where he works today as a service technician and lab manager. He loves the split nature of his job, between hands-on maintenance and software troubleshooting. “One minute I’ll be changing a tire,” he says, “and then five minutes later I’m plugging into a computer to find a needed file.”

After a lifetime of staring at twisted metal vehicle parts, Irving says it’s easy to grow numb to the real cost of such damage — “sort of like being a doctor, you get used to it.” But he still has days when he’ll look out the window on his commute and see drivers texting, and remember the life-altering accidents distracted drivers can cause. That’s why he feels so drawn to Argo’s singular mission of building self-driving technology people can trust — and using technology to avoid collisions and save lives on the road.

Though there are days when he misses the chance to fly, Irving says that he wouldn’t trade the pioneering aspect of his new career. “There’s no manual for this,” he explains. “We’re writing the rules.”

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