Business Tools

How the FLN Professional Development Program Benefitted Evan Cook, an Inaugural Attendee

By Evan Cook, Trim Illusion

Evan Cook
Evan Cook

When I heard about the SEMA Future Leaders Network (FLN) Professional Development Program (PDP), I jumped at a chance to apply. I was excited to hear SEMA was offering this Dale Carnegie in-person training program to FLN members at a subsidized cost. Previous to the course, I read the best-selling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The book focuses on communication, relationships and people skills—the soft skills that I thought I could improve on. Though being a depression-era book, the skills and tools it taught me were timeless. When the applications opened for the FLN Professional Development Program, I went to my employer and asked if the company would be willing to cover some of the cost, knowing that they invest in their team to be successful. I had their full support, and they covered the remaining cost of the program. In applying to the program, I sought to gain confidence, improve my communication skills and learn to develop meaningful relationships and connections in the workplace.

Dale Carnegie trainers Brett Campbell and Jay Eibler were great to work with and brought an exciting energy to the class. Compared to other “sit-and-take-note” courses, they kept us engaged from start to finish with different real-life exercises.

Day one, we were all challenged to step outside of our comfort zone and answer two questions in front of the class: “What is the biggest challenge we face within our organization?” and “What is the greatest strength we bring to our organization?” Personally, this exercise allowed me to shake off the nerves, interact and build real connections with other attendees. We practiced role-playing scenarios, worked through common workplace problems as a group and held in-depth classroom discussions. Many of us found we could relate to one another through common struggles or weaknesses. The FLN Professional Development Program far surpassed what I thought I could get out of a course. I was lucky enough to attend this program with a knowledgeable and motivated group of young professionals who I now call friends.

Since I attended the program, I feel much more confident when speaking. Instead of the often disengaging “small talk,” I now have the skills to turn it into meaningful rapport-building conversation. My role within my organization has expanded and I have been tasked with higher-level responsibilities. The confidence I gained has also granted me the ability to get more involved with SEMA and the Future Leaders Network. At the 2022 SEMA Show, I was humbled to receive the 2022 FLN Professional of the Year award.

I look forward to continuing to improve the skills and tools I took from the PDP. I would highly recommend this program to young professionals in the aftermarket looking to advance their career.

Apply now for the 2023 program, taking place May 11–12 at the SEMA Garage in Detroit, at