National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence
Joe Bologna, second from the right, receiving his ASE Automobile Technician of the Year Award

ASE Technician of Year Joe Bologna shares keys to success

Feb. 14, 2024
Recently named Discount Tire ASE Automobile Technician of the Year Joe Bologna cited a constant pursuit of learning and a great mentor as reasons for being named one of the industry's top techs.

Last December, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) awarded master technician Joe Bologna Discount Tire ASE Automobile Technician of the Year Award. The lead tech at Ellisville Tire & Service, who has two decades of experience, credited a career-long pursuit of learning new skills as the key to winning the presitigous award.

“My goal every day is to learn something new, whether it be at work or when I come home,” Bologna told Fleet Maintenance.

To earn the award, a nominee must “possess multiple ASE certifications, including the Master Technician ASE certification, deliver top scores on ASE tests, and demonstrate proficiency in productivity, customer satisfaction, and community involvement,” according to Discount Tire.

A self-starter who always loved figuring out how things worked, the 45-year-old Bologna has been designated as an ASE Automobile Technician and Advanced Level Specialist, and has picked up six ASE certifications. He started at his current shop, located near St. Louis, Missouri, four years ago. In 2021, Ellisville was bought by Discount Tire’s parent company, Reinalt-Thomas Corporation, and expanded from tire retail to full repair service.

There are an estimated 220,000 ASE certified professionals in the U.S., and the ASE handed out 53 Technician of the Year awards in 2023. There’s little question most technicians put in maximum effort in the bay, but what makes Bologna special is his dogged approach even when the work day is over.

Even when the work day ends, more troublesome vehicle issues cannot escape his mind, so Bologna said he goes online to research how to fix them. His goal is always “to stay one step ahead” of vehicles he dubs his “problem children.”

Read more: Fleet Maintenance Overachievers of the Year: the full list

“Joe is an outstanding professional, and his commitment to safety and on-the-job excellence are a perfect reflection of the values and people of Ellisville and at Discount Tire,” said Earl Davidson, vice president of full service at Discount Tire.

Getting an early start

Bologna’s technical education started through his interest in how things worked.

“Before I got into cars, I would be the kind of person who would take something apart to understand how it worked,” he recalled.

After getting his driver’s license, that curiosity was directed at cars.

Bologna knew that he wanted to pursue a technical career once he graduated high school, so he moved to Glendale, Arizona to study at the Universal Technical Institute of Arizona, Inc. At the time, Bologna was about 19 years old. However, he didn’t stay in Arizona long. In December, Bologna was forced to return to his hometown of St. Louis due to personal reasons. He continued his technical education through night classes at Ranken Technical College.

Upon graduation at 22, he entered the maintenance field in Cool Valley, Missouri, beginning a journey that would see him serve in four other shops over the next 20 or so years before landing at Ellisville Tire & Service. But his education didn’t stop after graduation. Instead, he learned more by getting his hands dirty with on-the-job training and the mentors he met along the way.

“I'm a very hands-on learning person,” Bologna explained. “I learned best by doing it myself and learning from a couple of veteran mechanics. If I had a problem, they would teach me.”

More than any other mentor, Bologna credits Lou Craven, who he calls “one of St. Louis’ best mechanics,” with teaching him the proper way to maintain and repair vehicles. They met in 2014 when Bologna took a Craven-instructed Level One training course.

Craven retired shortly after, but the two keep in touch. Even after retirement, Bologna claimed local dealerships would bring his mentor their problem cars to diagnose.

Embracing the challenge

After 20 years of working on cars, Bologna is still as curious as when he first opened a hood.

“When I go to work every day, it's a new-but-exciting challenge,” the head technician asserted. “I get stressed just like everyone else, but when you overcome the challenge for that day, you feel so much better.”

As far as how to meet those obstacles, whether it’s a problem child car or an ASE certification exam, Bologna offered two pieces of advice for young technicians who want to follow in his footsteps: One, go for your ASE certification, even if it takes a couple tries. And two, feed your interest, and not only in the shop.

“If you're interested in [this profession], read up on it,” Bologna said. “Learn about it and take the time to invest in yourself and be a success in the field."

About the Author

Alex Keenan

Alex Keenan is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She has written on a variety of topics for the past several years and recently joined the transportation industry, reviewing content covering technician challenges and breaking industry news. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.