Expert Industry Members Share Career-Development Tips
This past fall, SEMA Education partnered with the automotive technology department at Cypress College for a career workshop, where nearly 200 students had a chance to interact with industry heavy-hitters in a variety of companies and fields that included everything from engineering andmanufacturing to sales and marketing.
Throughout the rest of the day, representatives from SEMA-member companies gave 30-minute presentations to smaller groups of students. They offered insights about their own careers, including the skills and qualities important in their positions, and provided broader tips for successfully navigating the transition from student to professional.
“We hoped students would be inspired to pursue whatever aspect of the automotive industry is most interesting to them,” reflected SEMA Education Director Zane Clark. “The fact that SEMA members came together to highlight the many career paths available to students was motivating and demonstrated the industry’s commitment to fostering the next generation of professionals and innovators. Because of this commitment, SEMA will continue to identify opportunities that advocate automotive career paths for students.”
Apart from skills specific to a field of interest, a few themes emerged as the presenters shared their experiences. The starting point is cultivating an attitude of initiative, according to Ernie Silvers, president and CEO of Egge Machine Company.
“You can learn to network, and you can get educated, but you still have to have the initiative to want to getbetter,” Silvers said.
Greg Senser, national sales manager for Nitto Tire USA Inc., said that the number-one thing he looks for in prospective employees is a positive outlook.
“Regardless of the segment you’re in, you’re going to get challenged,” he said. “There are going to be things that aren’t going to work the way they’re supposed to. And being able to look past the immediate to work on the solution is probably one of the most important things.”
At other times, success really is about who you know, so another common topic of discussion was how important it is for young people to surround themselves with individuals who can act as teachers and mentors. That was certainly the case for Keith Kaucher, designer and builder at Kaucher Kustoms.
While many of the individuals who presented at the career workshop followed a specific field into the automotive specialty-equipment market, Kaucher recognized his love for all things automotive at a young age. He can point to a number of people who encouraged that spark and helped him develop skills he still uses every day.
“My dad showed me how to draw,” he remembered. “I also had a cousin, Karen, who was an art student, and she taught me lighting and shading, so that made me better. I had an uncle who had model cars, so he taught me how to build car models. Those are life skills.”
Kaucher first learned to recognize various car parts from models and was later taught how they worked together by his next-door neighbor.
Edelbrock Design Engineer Matt Gamble said that, in his experience, an eagerness to learn goes a long way.
“I’ve found that people are willing to help if there’s something you want to learn and they can feel your enthusiasm,” he said. “Go talk to people. Seek feedback and create opportunities for yourself. That’s really the way to succeed and move forward to where you want to be.”
Ultimately, the people who take the time to coach and offer feedback make an investment in their mentee’s future career. According to Steve Gibson, program coordinator for education at K&N Engineering Inc., that influence sometimes isn’t recognized and appreciated until later, but it is extremely valuable.
“There’s nothing that can replace having that feedback from an outside source,” Gibson said.
One of the benefits of working for a SEMA-member company is the chance to meet many differentpeople and start building the relationships that can make all the difference in your development and career. After fueling a passion for the industry, SEMA strives to continue providing the resources for a successful career in the automotive specialty-equipment market.
The classifieds section of SEMA’s website provides a connection portal for member companies that are hiring and individuals who are looking for employment or internships. Visit www.sema.org/jobs to browse current listings or to post a new position.