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 Driven to Excel

The highway for opportunities is wide open in automotive for those driven to excel.
The automotive industry offers a wide variety of career opportunities to anyone interested in working in the industry. There are jobs in companies that manufacture and sell new and pre-owned vehicles - cars, trucks and buses, for example.
There are also jobs in companies that manufacture auto parts such as tires, audio, stereo and visual components that are installed in those vehicles. In addition, there are careers to be made in the rent-a-vehicle business and at insurance companies that offer vehicle insurance to their customers.
Two of the professionals profiled in this feature work for companies that manufacture and sell automobiles. Another works for an auto parts company, and a fourth for an insurance company that provides automobile insurance.
It’s clear that automotive careers are wide open for anyone driven to excel. Take the wheel of your career future and cruise the following pages to gauge what opportunities lie on the horizon in automotive.
Sovereign Is Driven to Diversify His Skills at State Farm
For Jordan Sovereign, the automotive industry parked itself right in his neighborhood. “Growing up in Bloomington, IL, the corporate headquarters of State Farm, it’s hard to avoid learning about the auto insurance industry,” he remembers.
“I had always heard of State Farm, but never knew how many job opportunities exist here until I was hired.”
Besides vehicle insurance, State Farm offers home and property, health and disability, and life insurance.
After posting his resume online, Sovereign came on board at State Farm as a contractor. His resume indicated that he’d earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a primary focus on print media. He points out how “the State of Illinois Department of Human Services helped me in finding job placement and having the resources available to look for employment.”
He’s currently an IT analyst in State Farms’ enterprise technology department. He works on internal websites and documentation for the department, which supports all of the technical behind-the-scenes activity behind State Farm’s web presence, online tools for agents and claims, as well as other IT services of the company.
“I find new challenges every day, so I’m always learning and growing my skills,” Sovereign says. A typical day for him consists mostly of sitting at a computer workstation, responding to requests, fixing issues, preparing for software updates and enhancements, and generally being available to help. 
“From my first meeting with my managers, it was clear there’s freedom at State Farm to look for opportunities that interest me,” he says. “If I want to, then there are opportunities to move around to different departments and explore other things to work on.”
Sovereign explains that State Farm offers its employees a large number of learning resources so employees can study and learn about new roles and opportunities that might be available to them.
“I’ve studied quite a few of these resources. I receive training and mentoring on other things, as well. I’m given many opportunities and time to develop myself,” he adds.
Since Sovereign uses a wheelchair, he requires a few accommodations. “I need wide doorways, automatic doors, extra space to maneuver around my desk, a desk that I can raise or lower, and a laptop that’s light and easy to carry around to meetings,” he details.
State Farm has a very modern, accessible campus, he explains, and is quick to respond to his requests for accommodation, so all of his requirements were met very quickly and efficiently.
Sovereign participates in two of State Farm’s employee resource groups. One, Advocacy for Disability and Education (ADE), includes both disabled and non-disabled members who meet and discuss disability issues and generally advocate for people with disabilities in the workplace.
“It’s been good for me to be in this group and to find ways to help my fellow disabled people get jobs and succeed,” he notes.
Early in his career, Sovereign joined Toastmasters, an educational organization that operates clubs to promote communication, public speaking and leadership skills. The club Sovereign joined meets at State Farm.
“[Toastmasters] has helped me be able to speak about myself and my needs. [It’s also] a learning playground and supportive environment where I’m able to try on different hats and work on my leadership skills,” he shares.
There are several career paths available for State Farm’s technical employees, Sovereign points out, and State Farm provides a list of items and links to pursue for this in its learning resources website. Development opportunities for employees include online learning, mentoring, development assignments and continuing education.
Find more information about State Farm at statefarm.com and statefarm.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
Henretta’s Career Gets into High Gear at FCA
Marc Henretta, who is currently in Chrysler brand retail advertising at FCA US LLC, says his father’s 45-year career at the company influenced his own decision to have a career at Chrysler.
“My dad was my best friend, hero and role model,” he says. “As a young kid, my dad would explain many different job positions within Chrysler to me.”
The younger Henretta decided that he ultimately wanted to be an area sales manager. “As a kid I was always fascinated with the marketing of products and services,” Henretta explains.
The advertising aspect of marketing was of particular interest to him. Thus, he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, with a minor in economics, and then went to work selling cars and trucks at a Chrysler dealership. After a year, he moved to a leasing company to fully understand that part of the automotive industry.
An in-person interview brought Henretta back to Chrysler, the Auburn Hills, MI company that designs, manufactures and sells automobiles, light commercial vehicles, components and production systems. Besides Fiat and Chrysler cars, its automobile brands include Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, as well as the SRT performance designation. FCA US is a member of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCA) family of companies.
Henretta was hired as an area service manager to work in its field office in Kansas City, MO. In that position, “I was a conduit between headquarters and our dealers. Customer satisfaction and parts sales were the primary roles of this position.”
He was then transferred to the sales team: “Selling vehicles to dealers, improving their customer scores, and financial statement reviews with dealer principals were key in this role.”
Following that he served in a series of roles in Chrysler organizations such as the customer center, U.S. and international marketing, public relations, retail sales promotions and, finally, his current position in Chrysler brand retail advertising, where he’s responsible for ensuring that he knows what the Chrysler brand team wants to advertise monthly and annually. That includes the vehicles it wants to advertise, the media to be used and any incentive offers.
“Once we have direction from the brand, we engage our advertising agencies to help develop advertising concepts,” he notes.
He’s responsible for all forms of media that are used. About 20% of Henretta’s time is spent attending a “shoot,” typically in and around the Los Angeles, CA area where most of the commercials are filmed.
“About five years into my career, I broke my back, and began using a light-weight chair for mobility,” Henretta shares.
He also has a slightly different workstation than others at his grade level. His desk is slightly bigger than normal with no “legs” under the desk, so he has the ability to roll around his entire workstation without hitting barriers, and a reserved parking spot in the parking deck.
Through the years Henretta has received training, which included various levels of Dale Carnegie training, dealership financial statement and accounting workshops, and leadership workshops.
“FCA is strong in making sure employees have the resources to perform their job to exemplary levels,” he concludes. There are also mandatory courses that FCA selects for its employees, as well as courses that employees can opt to take. He’s also been an FCA new hire ambassador, mentoring new hires in his group for their first six months of employment.
FCA provides opportunities for employees to move from one FCA Group location to another. “They offer a very strong relocation package, and pick up the tab on most everything to do with a family relocation,” Henretta points out.
The company also provides opportunities for technical-track employees to transition into a managerial track. If employees are interested in a cross-functional assignment within the company to move into a new area, they’re encouraged to do so and are provided with the financial resources to pursue the relative training or degree to complement their resume.
Henretta reports that FCA Group is investigating launching an employee-led disabled employee resource group in the near future. Not only is he interested in joining, he’s also interested in leading and formalizing his role as a conduit and voice for the FCA employees who join.
Outside of the company, he’s a member of USA Hockey. “I teach younger disabled children and adults how to play sled hockey,” says Henretta, who also teaches wounded warriors who come home missing one or more limbs “how to get back in the game” through sled hockey.
More information about open positions at FCA is found on fcagroup.com and careers.fcagroup.com/where-we-are/nafta-careers-home. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.
Lear Corporation’s McNulty & Valente Offer Career Advice
Dave McNulty, Lear Corporation’s vice president, global talent acquisition, says the company typically hires college graduates with degrees in business, engineering, supply chain, finance and HR.
“Our mantra is, ‘Where passion drives possibilities,’” he says. “Every one of our 165,000 employees globally is empowered to accelerate the pace of innovation.”
Headquartered in Southfield, MI, Lear is a leading global supplier of seating systems and electrical systems. Its businesses are looking to the future, working to deliver on future automotive trends like electrification, connectivity and mobility.
The majority of Lear’s new hires have been former Lear interns. “Prior work experience is useful, but we’re open to candidates with many different backgrounds,” McNulty notes.
New hires can be placed into many different positions, including finance, HR, supply chain, quality, engineering, purchasing and program management. “All of these areas offer advancement above entry-level. In fact, that’s where we develop our next generation of leaders,” he points out.
For positions above entry-level at Lear, “much depends on the role. There are no definitive requirements, but automotive industry experience, as well as functional depth can be a plus,” McNulty adds.
“We have a unique approach to our job descriptions,” explains Noelle Valente, Lear’s vice president, global learning and development, who oversees the company’s professional development and other initiatives.
“We focus on the desired outcomes for the position and the methodology for achieving those outcomes. All candidates, including those with disabilities, are interviewed against that framework, and their likelihood of success based on their previous experiences.”
She adds that diversity is one of Lear’s core values. The company’s global diversity officer maintains strong relationships with schools and organizations to help place candidates who have diverse backgrounds and who have disabilities. An interviewing candidate who requires an accommodation need only request it during an initial phone interview or at any other stage of the interview process.
Valente says several resources are available for employee self-development, and Lear regularly offers team workshops.
“We educate our employees through our performance management system where teamwork and career development are reviewed at least three to four times a year. While formal mentoring isn’t included for development, we promote mentoring and coaching relationships with employee supervisors and other leaders that develop organically. We always assign a mentor to any employee who asks for one, and understands the nature and commitment involved,” Valente elaborates.
Interested technical track employees can consider the possibility of transferring into a management track. “It would be considered an option after an employee has reached a technical threshold and demonstrated the interest and capacity for leadership,” she says. “We offer an emerging leader development program to help new leaders understand how to leverage the tools and frameworks Lear has available for managers.”
Valente suggests that individuals seek opportunities with a company where diversity and respect are foundational to the company’s culture. “Lear is exactly this type of company. We’re globally committed to diversifying our workforce,” she notes.
To find more information about Lear, go to lear.com and lear.com/Site/Careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
Williams & Tolbert: Growth & Career Opportunities Available at Volkswagen
Volkswagen Group of America, headquartered in Herndon, VA, interviews and hires candidates with varying degrees and related work experience.
“The required and preferred educational background and related experience are position-specific and are included with the position description as part of the application process,” according to Mike Tolbert, senior specialist, corporate communications.
“Like most employers, we look favorably upon relevant internships and/or experience.”
Machelle Williams, who is Volkswagen’s senior director, diversity and CSR (corporate social responsibility), came to the company with a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism.
“I came into the automotive industry purely by accident,” she admits, adding that, initially, a temp agency sent her to Volkswagen’s credit department in 1994 as a temporary employee. Her 25-year, full-time career with the company began as a contract employee in Volkswagen’s call center.
“Volkswagen Group of America provides mandatory and optional training opportunities, including and not limited to workplace productivity, compliance and professional development,” Tolbert says. “Mentoring opportunities are also provided.”
Williams remembers that, early in her career, “I attended many training events with groups like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Linkage, a team of professional development experts that offers leadership assessments, coaching, training and workshops for hands-on leadership development.”
Tolbert points to Volkswagen’s Graduate Leadership Development Program, a two-year, intensive, cross-functional learning experience as opportunities for recent college graduates hired into the company. Participants in the program receive training, mentoring, networking and exposure to all levels of the company while being exposed to entry-level responsibilities.
Besides development opportunities, employees also have opportunities for career growth, including movement from technical tracks into management tracks.
Although, at its heart, Volkswagen is an engineering company, and it values technical expertise highly, individuals can participate in its employee development opportunities and leadership development programs to help them with the transition from technical to management tracks.
Tolbert says that one of the company’s goals is to be recognized as a top company for diversity and inclusion practices. It hopes to be included as one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in America, as well as a Top 50 Company for Diversity.
As part of its diversity and inclusion efforts, candidates or employees with disabilities who need an accommodation can request it at any time. Volkswagen Group of America also partners with minority organizations such as the National Urban League and the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
Part of Williams’ responsibilities as director, she explains, is to help in Volkswagen’s diversity effort by establishing the company’s strategy for creating an inclusive culture, “where every employee feels they bring their whole self to work and have access to career opportunities.
For young college graduates who are interested in a career in the automotive industry and who are looking at Volkswagen Group of America as a possible employer, Tolbert advises: “I would highly suggest learning more about the Volkswagen Group of America Graduate Program, volkswagengroupofamerica.com/careers/graduate-program. Upon successful completion of the program, they have an enhanced opportunity to be hired into full-time positions aligning with their personal career interest and with business needs.”
Log onto volkswagengroupofamerica.com and volkswagengroupofamerica.com/careers/careers-at-volkswagen to learn more about the company. Find open positions listed on Monster and other career websites. Connect on LinkedIn.
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