Automotive and mobility careers offer innovative thinking, diverse opportunities, and the ability to change the world. Connect with young automotive professionals to learn more about different career opportunities and where you could make an impact on global issues through the automotive and mobility industry.
Process Engineer, Continental Structural Plastics
Getting into Automotive
- What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?
I knew I wanted to study engineering since I was a little kid playing with Legos, but it was really after graduating with an undergraduate degree with an aerospace focus and surveying the local job market that I realized automotive would be a more accessible option.
- Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?
Coming from Windsor, the “Automotive Capital of Canada,” everybody knows someone working in the automotive industry. In my case, my father has worked at “The Plant” (Chrysler/Daimler-Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis Windsor Assembly) for decades, so I’ve been exposed to automotive for as long as I can remember.
- What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?
A passion to find out how things work (often by taking them apart) made automotive a natural fit, since cars and trucks are some of the most mechanically complex things we interact with in a typical day.
- When were you first exposed to automotive?
One of my earliest memories of the auto industry is touring the Windsor Assembly Plant during an open house many years ago. Seeing all the production equipment in that massive factory was really cool for a young kid – and I still think that stuff is cool as an adult!
- Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?
In a word, everywhere. Growing up in an automotive town, it was normal to see car haulers driving down the city streets, lots full of vans ready to be shipped around the world, and hardly any foreign-made cars on the road. It was only when I was older and spent some time outside of the area that I realized how deeply ingrained the auto industry – and particularly the “Big Three” – was in my everyday life.
- What college did you attend, what was your major, and why did you choose that path?
University of Windsor, Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering – Aerospace Option. After undergrad I decided that an automotive focus might be more useful in the Metro Detroit/Windsor area job market so that was my focus for graduate school.
- Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)
University of Windsor, Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering. My thesis was focused on automotive composites manufacturing processes.
- What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?
The engineering co-op program at the University of Windsor exposed me to many different roles, but they all tied back to the auto industry. From working in maintenance at an auto parts warehouse, to writing technical reports on R&D activities in an assembly plant, to assisting with machining activities at a tool and die shop, these all helped prepare me for a career in automotive and showed me just how wide ranging the field can be.
Automotive Career: Then and Now
- What was your first job post-college?
Aside from co-op jobs and internships during my university career, my first job was at CSP in my current role.
- What is your role now?
I am a process engineer for the Advanced Technology Development team, working on developing production processes and materials for a number of exciting projects related to next-generation fiber-reinforced composites and vehicles.
- What projects and programs do you work on?
A few of my current projects include honeycomb core composites for class-A roof and body panels, multi-material flame-retardant battery box systems for EVs, and lightweight thermoplastic hybrid composites for appearance applications.
- Describe a typical day.
Every day is a little bit different. Since we run a lean team of engineers and technicians at our Advanced Technologies Center, we all wear a number of hats. One day I could be running presses and equipment or making a run of prototype parts, and the next day I could be conducting mechanical testing and analysis on some new materials. There’s never a dull moment here!
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ideally still working in the automotive composite materials field. Fiber-reinforced plastics have such a wide variety of new applications just in the automotive industry alone that I don’t think I’ll be bored for a very long time.
Advice for Young Students
- Knowing what you know now, if you could give your younger self one tip or piece of advice, what would it be?
Learn another language. Automotive is a global industry with supply chains stretching around the world, so the ability to communicate with others from various countries is a definite asset. Luckily, the technical drawing methods and scientific concepts you learn in engineering school are sort of like a universal language, so this helps too.
- What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?
Give it a try! Automotive is such a wide-ranging field that there’s bound to be something interesting for everyone. Plus, even if it turns out to not be the right fit for you, the skills and knowledge you’ve developed in a field as diverse as automotive will set you up great for a career in the field of your choosing.
- What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” While it may not have been said by Abe Lincoln, it has had a lasting influence on my life and career to date. Regardless of what profession or industry you choose to go into, do the best that you can. If something is worth doing at all then it’s worth doing right.
- What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?
The ability to work on next-generation vehicles and technologies that will shape the future of transportation is an experience you can’t find in many places other than Michigan’s auto industry. Also, many of the friends I made in college now work in the local auto industry too, so it’s nice to remain close with all those folks and have that shared experience of working in the auto industry.
- Do you participate in any organizations outside of work? Or have any hobbies (unrelated to automotive)? Do you feel the work-life balance in the auto industry allows you to continue these passions?
Outside of work I love to cycle and spend lots of time (and money) putting together bikes to ride around town. The hours in the auto industry aren’t usually too bad, and you’re certainly compensated fairly for your time, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy your life.