Cool Jobs Q & A: Elevator Mechanic

Maclean’s Cool Jobs series: Malcolm DaCosta, an elevator mechanic at Quality Allied Elevator, discusses the ups and downs of his career


  • Elevator mechanic, Quality Allied Elevator, Toronto
  • Education and training: College-trained as an electrician for two years; Three-year apprenticeship with Otis Elevator Company in Mumbai, India
  • Average yearly income: $80,000-$90,000
  • Years on the job: 37

How did you get into this field?

I finished high school and I was looking for something challenging. It’s a dangerous job, of course, but it’s also fun. I got into one of the best companies after school. At first, I was skeptical that I would be doing this for the rest of my life, but now I love it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Describe a typical day. 

We start at 8 a.m. and we end by 4 p.m. I am responsible for maintaining 80 to 90 elevators a month, doing periodic inspections and Technical Standard and Safety Advisory board inspections. By 8:15, I should know how my day is starting. If I have two or three calls, I prioritize which is most important. The first priority
is if a person is stuck, then it’s if there’s no elevator in a highrise, then it’s if there’s no elevator in a smaller building.

What’s your favourite part?

Sometimes we ride on the top of an elevator when it’s moving at high speed. That’s dangerous, but it’s really fun. When people get stuck in elevators, we go and free them. Seeing the looks on their faces when the doors open fills me with joy.

Most memorable moment on the job?

There was one bad situation up near St. Clair and Dawes Road in Scarborough [a suburb of Toronto] with a group of people stuck in an elevator. The superintendent was a stupid guy. He kicked the elevator door. The elevator was stuck on the floor level and he kicked it off the track. He’d done so much damage that we couldn’t open the doors. The fire department came and we couldn’t get them out. The only other option was the trap door on the top of the elevator, and the trap door is only two feet by two feet. Slim guys could get out in a jiffy. But we had one very stout lady and we had a lot of trouble getting her out. That was an incident I will never forget my whole life.

What are the pros and cons?

Be prepared to have people not like you. If an elevator breaks down once, people will say it breaks down all the time. You have to come in smiling and be professional and be prepared to have people blame you for things that aren’t your fault. If you get angry easily, this job is not for you. After you age, really, after 60, you can’t do the same thing as when you were young. You have to take it easy. Our job is tiring. If there’s no elevator
in a highrise, you have to walk up.

Advice for aspiring elevator mechanics?

You have to be ready to work with your hands. You should not be afraid of heights. When you’re on the top of an elevator, if you snooze, you’re done. You can lose a finger or a thumb. You have to be ready to do anything.

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