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.
Senior Product Engineer, Continental Structural Plastics
Getting into Automotive
- What inspired you to go into the automotive and mobility field?
I’ve loved cars since I was a child, and had the mind for anything mechanical (Legos, remote control cars, small-scale models). The auto industry in Metro Detroit seemed like a great avenue once I got older and figured out what I wanted to do.
- Did you grow up with family members in the automotive industry?
Quite the opposite. My father is a contractor and my mother works in international logistics.
- What interests led you to consider a career in automotive?
Thinking of working on products that I see driven down the road every day gave me a high sense of gratitude and fulfillment in what I do, and the drive to always perform at my best.
- When were you first exposed to automotive?
After college, my first job was at Ford Motor Company.
- Growing up, what was your impression of the automotive industry? How would you have described the industry?
My impressions were always that of a secret VIP club, where only a select few are allowed privilege. In a sense that is still the case, but much more approachable than originally thought of.
- What college did you attend, what was your major and why did you choose that path?
I am originally from Buffalo, New York, so I attended the State University at Buffalo (a.k.a. UB – go Bulls!). Fortunately, I’ve always had my mind set on engineering, so I was always enrolled in the four-year B.S. Mechanical Engineering program.
- Do you have additional degrees, training, or education? (I.e., graduate degree, MBA, etc.)
None other than some trainings received on the job from the various positions I’ve held. Some of these things include Design for Six Sigma, FDM (3-D) printing, even down to a forklift license.
- What opportunities did you have in college that allowed you to explore or start your career in automotive, including any co-ops or internships?
Unfortunately, I did not have any internships. But to make up for that, I enrolled in a few different engineering related clubs within the University to show my interest and willingness to put in extra time for more experience.
Automotive Career: Then and Now
- What was your first job post-college? Please share any lessons learned.
My first job was at Ford Motor Company as an AVBOM Analyst. The job was not engineering-related by much, but I took the position hoping to open the door within Ford. Although I didn’t branch out within Ford, that experience allowed me to network and gain some experience within the industry for my future positions. Ironically, some of the Microsoft Excel skills I learned from that position I still use today.
- How did you transition from your first job to where you are now? What roles did you hold along the way? What projects or opportunities were critical in this process?
I used resources like Monster.com, LinkedIn, Indeed.com, and applied to various positions that allowed me to network with recruiters. These recruiters would then call me for phone interviews, and eventually led to me finding a Prototype Build Engineer role at FCA (now Stellantis). That position exposed me to the more program management level of engineering with sending out request for quote, prototype tooling vs. production tooling, timing, and supplier sourcing. The role at FCA was critical in finding my current role now since a person I worked with told me there was an opening at Continental Structural Plastics.
- Have you made any major career changes? If so, please explain your thoughts and reasoning.
So far in the last 5 years, I haven’t made any significant changes. CSP has been great place to work with priceless experience gained, and I have been promoted during my time here.
- What is your role now?
I am currently a Senior Product Engineer.
- What projects and programs do you work on?
I have worked on several General Motors Co., Stellantis, and Ford programs. My most recent project was on the GM Corvette C8 convertible, where CSP manufactures and ships the Tonneau cover and Decklid for the retractable hardtop system to the General Motors Bowling Green assembly plant.
- Describe a typical day.
A typical day for me starts with reviewing my emails and categorizing them based on what needs to be done. I will then handle working on items that are urgent, then items that have more lead time (i.e., take two or three days, or up to a week to complete). In between that, I will attend meetings that can be either business- or commercial-related, or technically-related to the product I am working on and keep track of any action items needed to be completed as a result from those meetings.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself in engineering management. I can handle stressful situations calmly, communicate what needs to be done, and provide direction to various groups within the organization. I believe it is something I will excel at.
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?
Finding a job is tedious. There were a lot of dead ends, but it’s one of those things where you have to be consistent and keep applying to what you find. I’d say if I applied to 10 jobs, one or two would lead to a phone interview and hopefully an in-person interview, and eight to nine would lead to nothing.
Don’t be afraid to take some risks. Moving out to a different state after graduating to find a job was a big risk, and allowed not only my career to flourish, but also me as an individual.
- What advice do you have for high school students who are interested in automotive, but unsure if it’s the career for them?
It really would depend on what you’re interested in, as there are so many aspects to automotive as an industry. Supply chain logistics can be one of the most complex sides of the industry, and if that excites you, then perhaps working in a warehouse (as I did during college) will expose you to the logistics and accounting side of delivering products. If HR interests you, there are companies who have recruiters in house that are on social media reaching out to people for opportunities. If sales interest you, you can take some sale associate experience at a retail store and apply it to let’s say an internship at a company reaching out for quotes or bids on future business opportunities. The sky’s the limit on the different areas and facets within the industry.
- What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
The five P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Always plan ahead to achieve the best outcome, no matter what it is (vacation, work, hobbies, nutrition, etc.)
- What do you love about working in the automotive industry (and specifically the automotive industry in Michigan)?
The fast-paced environment sometimes brings out my best work. I do well under pressure. The industry also allows my creative side to flourish, as there are many complex problems that require out-of –the-box problem solving to come to a solution or proposal that will be implemented for either design or manufacturing.
- 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?
To satisfy some of my mechanical nature, I have an old motorcycle where I’ve rebuilt the carburetor and exhaust to allow it to run better. So, I enjoy spending time working on that. I am also big into fitness, so I dedicate five days a week to working out. During times of product launches or prototype build events, time was very scarce since those events require a lot of working time. However, I was able to manage my time appropriately and come up with ways to balance my work-life time. Family and relationships are always number one, and lines have to be drawn no matter the circumstances at work.