A question I get a lot from younger readers is: How can I become an automotive engineer for a major car company? The answer is that there are many avenues to that goal, which is why—in addition to telling my own tale about how I scored my dream engineering job at Fiat Chrysler—I compiled stories from Ford, Nissan, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, and GM engineers.
It’s the same question I used to ask people all the time when I was a middle-schooler in the small city of Leavenworth, Kansas. I was someone who didn’t live anywhere close to the car industry (unless you count dealers and the Ford plant in Kansas City), and knew little about the civilian sector in general, since I grew up in an army community. To me, the automobile industry was a dim light atop the tallest of peaks—something that I could only faintly see from a distance, a dream that mostly just felt like an impossibility.
[A quick note: This article consists of eight pages, one devoted to each engineer’s story. Once you get to the bottom of my page, click “next” to read on page two the amazing way that the Jeep Wrangler JL product planner scored his dream gig. Comments are on page nine, which I realize is a bummer. Tell me your thoughts on how this new format works for a long feature like this one. I think it breaks things up well, but I’m unsure.]
Let The Passion Drive You
I was 13 years old, but for years and years, I carried that dream right there in my chest pocket, never letting go and using it to shape each and every major life decision I made.
My goal, to be specific, was to work for Chrysler, as I wrote on a flashlight forum (don’t judge) post back in July of 2006, when I was a mere 14 years old:
A former classmate, whose dad owned an awesome third-generation Ram 1500 (with the billet grille!), recently sent me a photo of our eighth-grade yearbook, in which I wrote: “Dodge Rams rule!”
Look at this Chrysler nerd:
I vividly remember a Chrysler Ride and Drive event in Kansas City that I convinced my family to attend, and we always went to the Kansas City Auto Show. Here’s my 16-year-old self crawling all over Jeeps in 2008; the JK Wrangler was still a relatively new vehicle, and I was obsessed:
I even took a photo of myself (using a digital camera because this was before the proliferation of smartphones) in the 2008 Jeep Liberty, which—while new at the time—was a pretty crappy Jeep. But a man in love sees no flaws:
Never mind, even I knew a crappy car when I saw one (see caption):
Also new in 2008 was the Challenger:
And the “DS” Ram:
Now that I think about it, 2008 was a