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Put Your Career into Gear
There’s clear opportunity to put your STEM career in gear and get on the fast track in automotive.
The industry has a constant need for new and better products, and for STEM professionals to design, build, and distribute them. Abhijit Shinde, who is an account manager in the sales division of one of BorgWarner’s companies and among those STEM pros featured here, acknowledges that the automotive industry offers diverse opportunities across multiple technologies.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agrees. It indicates that between May 2018 and May 2019 there were 86,000 new jobs in manufacturing motor vehicles and their parts. Jobs in sales of motor vehicles and their parts rose by 282,000. So there’s clear opportunity to put your STEM career in gear in the automotive industry.
Read about how Shinde and the other STEM professionals featured on the following pages did just that, and learn from them how to fast-track your own future in the industry.
Feagen Is on the Fast Track at Kia
Shirelda Bell Feagen, who is quality control manager at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG), always had an interest in why and how things worked. Her parents were very supportive of her interest, too.
“My father always answered my every question and encouraged me to find out answers for myself,” she recalls. “My mother always encouraged [my two brothers and me] to be independent thinkers and [told us] that fear of failure should never stop us from trying new or difficult things.”
So in 2003 Feagen earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering technologies from South Carolina State University, a historically black university (HBCU), on a full academic scholarship. Her extracurricular activities included student membership in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). She’s currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in organizational leadership.
As a sophomore undergraduate, she had the chance to begin a three-term, co-op program at Mitsubishi Motors North America. She moved hundreds of miles from home, with parental support, to gain experience in the automobile industry. Her co-op experience was followed by a one-term internship with BMW’s manufacturing company back in South Carolina.
“I was immediately drawn to the fast pace of the automotive industry,” notes Feagen. She was able to apply many of the concepts that she’d studied in her classes, including statistical process control, plant layout and design, and technical communications.
As an engineering graduate with experience in the auto industry, Feagen was an excellent candidate when a recruiter from KMMG reached out to her in 2009. KMMG is the first manufacturing site in North America for Kia Motors Corporation, with world headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. Located in West Point, GA, KMMG is the home of the Telluride and Sorento SUVs and the Optima mid-size sedan.
Feagen was hired into the company as a quality control engineering specialist, where she was responsible for supplier part management and interior color harmony. She was promoted to quality control assistant manager, where she managed a small group of engineers, and then to quality control manager. In that role prior to the promotion, she was responsible for the interior department, consisting of assistant managers and engineering specialists.
As a working wife and mother, Feagen says working at KMMG has been very rewarding. “I’ve always felt a respect for work-life balance,” she says about the culture at the company. “Having been here for 10 years, I’ve been very happy with the decision that I made.”
Now in her current position as a quality control manager, Feagen is tasked with managing all phases of a program, including advanced product-quality planning, mass-production assembly support and warranty focus for applying lessons learned to future models for continuous improvement.
“We validate changes to the interior components, audit part supplier processes and support general assembly at KMMG to insure customer expectations are exceeded in an efficient manner,” she explains, adding that her team of two assistant managers and five engineers are each responsible for interior components such as seats, seatbelts, trim panels, door components, and carpets.
Her team also interfaces with community youth. “KMMG partners with elementary schools in the area to support STEM projects and to help teachers improve on curriculum with specific STEM focus,” she points out.
Feagen has received both internal and external training at KMMG as her career progressed. Training has ranged from technical subject matter like color evaluation, leather processing, Six Sigma and project management to soft skills training like communication and team development.
KMMG also offers tuition reimbursement to employees who wish to transfer from a technical role into a managerial role, as she did. “I’m currently enrolled in a graduate studies program that focuses on organizational leadership and management,” she details.
In addition, Feagen is currently a certified manager of quality/organizational excellence (CMQ/OE) through the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Earning an ASQ certification is a formal recognition of professionals who have demonstrated an understanding of, and a commitment to, quality practices in their field.
Information about KMMG career opportunities is at kmmgusa.com/employment. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.
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