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Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

(OP)
Hello Everyone,

This is my first post. It is very nice to meet you. I hope I can get some advice and feedback. I graduated as a double major in Mechanical and Material Science engineering in June 2010.

Currently, I am a Mechanical Engineer and have been doing a lot of design work. To cut it short, I had an interview for a Mechanical Engineer at a big company which researches and develops bi-fuel systems and engines in alternative fuels. I made it past the second interview to barely lose out to someone that has been in the Automotive industry for awhile. The manager said that he thinks I'm a highly desirable candidate and would like to hire me in the future.

My main QUESTION: What can I do to strengthen my experience and skills to get into this industry?

At my University I did 3 research projects that involved engines, one being the FSAE project. It seems so hard to get into this industry and I greatly desire to. I'm still working as a design engineer in the Aerospace industry. Anyone have some mentoring advice? I'd greatly appreciate it.    

I was thinking of maybe trying to find a mechanic that would allow me to volunteer and work for free on weekends to assemble and disassemble cars. Thank you for reading such a long post.  

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

apply at a different company?  go in as a contractor vs. direct?  Lots of openings in the midwest.

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

(OP)
I have family that work in GM, Michigan. Right now I'm in CA and it's hard for me to make a decision to leave because I have to care for my family (Mother and Father) who were immigrants and very old now but have jobs in CA. Currently, there isn't much opportunity here in CA. It's such a hard decision to leave the parents, one of them now a senior citizen, or not.

Thanks for the link dgallup, that gives me hope. What can I do meantime to improve my skills and knowledge? Is there anyone here that had difficulty but found a way to get in?

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

If you can think of no other solution then get in as a CAD guy and then try and switch to engineering. That is a reasonably common approach.

Secondly would be to emphasise your CAE skills, which by default seems to mean FEA. Even node pushers are in high demand.

Thirdly, I've got to say you'd have more chance almost anywhere else in the country than CA, or for that matter in most countries other than the USA. FWIW in Australia both firms that design cars are hiring, paying about 60-70k for someone with 2 years non automotive experience

Fourth, if you are willing to travel to China or India frequently and for a long time then you should be able to get a liaison job.

Fifth get a job with a supplier and them move to an OEM after two or three years, working as design engineer on the same sort of systems.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Join a race team as pit crew for good hands on down and dirty experience, although that will not help much to get an OEM job.

There are plenty of Hot Rod bits made in California. I do not know if that offers employment opportunities for someone with your background, but it might be worth a look.

Regards
Pat
See FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on use of eng-tips by professional engineers &
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RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

John,

If you are commutable to Ventura County (Camarillo) then I urge you to apply through our website.

-Tony Staples
www.tscombustion.com

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

John, too bad I'm reading this only now, otherwise I would have encouraged you to participate in this Amarok competition http://blog.grabcad.com/tag/amarok/.  Would have been a nice chance to do something in automotive, to get feedback from fellows and a to have a relevant item for your portfolio.
In any case, take a look at the 150 different triple clamps that the engineers came up with for the superbike http://grabcad.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=amarok

I'm helping the GrabCAD team with stuff, just to have things clear and straight :) However, I really think it would be a good idea to check the site every now and then as there will be similar challenges coming up and automotive industry jobs do come in every once in a while. The community is great for accelerating your learning, too.

Cheers,
Kristina
http://grabcad.com/kristina.narusk

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Hi John,

Where in Cali are you?  I'm an automotive engineer in the SF bay area, crossed over from Aerospace 3 years ago.  It's not the easiest move but certainly doable.

Are you up in this region?

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

(OP)
Thank you Knarusk, that sounds like a great thing to do on the side.

TheSwener, I am located in the LA county. So kinda far from the SF Bay area. What did you do in Aerospace? Did you have to learn system programs like matlab or labview to move to automotive? I think my weakness is not having strong system language skills in matlab and labview. I feel a lot of diagnostics are done with such programs. But my skills in CAD, specifically Solidworks, are very strong.  

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Labview is used by only a tiny percentage of mechanical automotive engineers. Matlab is used by far more.

Solidworks is better than crayons on butcher's paper, and your skills there will transfer to an automotive CAD system.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

John, I suspect I know which place you interviewed, as I work in that industry currently. Mainly the electrical side of things.

  There are quite a few other places hiring in the automotive field around LA/OC. And plenty of recruiters out there to work with that will help find you a job.

   The racing/performance field suggestions aren't bad. That industry lost a lot of jobs over the last few years, but I've seen some positions advertised recently. If you get on with one of those, you will get a good bit of hands on work.

 And loads of small companies in the area are now doing work with hybrid/electric vehicles too.

Aerotek is a recruiter/agency that does a lot of automotive engineering jobs in the area. You might want to look into them.
 

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Not to sidetrack, but AeroTek is my least favorite recruiter company... I have received more inappropriate job requests from them (based upon my resume experience) than all other recruiters combined.  They simply want to fill a quota/bonus and care little about how well you actually match up with a particular position.  The recruiters themselves are rarely knowledgeable about the area their trying to fill, hence the spamming for jobs that don't fit.  Use a throwaway email, too, as they will continue to carpet bomb your inbox years after you've found a position.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

Hi John,

I went to Honeywell Aero in Torrance for 2 years after undergrad, designing air bearings (= pretty much useless for automotive).  I found my way into automotive by quitting and attempting to start a hybrid bus company from scratch - that was enough to get me into VW's Bay Area research center (ERL) after the startup fell through.

I've hopped around a bit since and found plenty of opportunity around here, mostly in electric vehicles.  This is an area in which almost no one has much experience, so employers are willing to hire from outside the industry.  If you can offer generic experience that is applicable (CAD systems, MATLAB, analysis, design for manufacturing, thermal, etc.), then you can find a way in.  Startup companies are especially open because they are usually looking for somebody who DOESN'T look like an industry dinosaur.

Suggestions:

- Learn CATIA - pretty much the standard for big OEMs and their suppliers, and a big plus if you want to do CAD.  You can easily find the software and tutorials on the internet if you are so inclined.

- Look for non-OEMs as a way in.  Down your way I'm thinking of Metalcrafters Inc., Millenworks, Fisker Automotive, Coda (with caution, they might be folding!), Aerovironment, Aptera, Honeywell Turbo Technologies (aka Garrett turbochargers), Enova, etc.  All these companies have interesting work in the automotive sector and aren't as narrow minded about who they hire.  Any of them would make a great starting point.

- Have you looked at the OEM's satellite offices in CA?  Almost all the majors have a design/engineering center down in your area, a tech scouting center up here (VW is the only one with any real engineering up here), and a tiny alternative fuels group in Sacramento.  Toyota's Torrance facility houses their entire accessories group and some R&D, BMW's Westlake facility handles the Mini-E project, GM's has development for the Volt motor in Torrance (and I have a contact if you are so inclined).

- Other things that auto guys are looking for - design for low cost, fast development schedules, intuition for extreme environments.  But sensitivity to cost and schedule is what makes them hesitate when they see Aerospace guys!

I'd love to help a fellow auto enthusiast, so if you want to take this offline feel free to find me on LinkedIn (Rob Sweney) or email my username @ gmail.


Cheers,

Rob
 

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

(OP)
TheSwener,

Thanks for your response. That's very helpful. I did do a contract with AV and helped design the Nissan Leaf's charger. I also helped design multiple electric car chargers for commercial and residential. Right now I'm still designing flight simulator equipment. I think I should stick with this job until the economy eases up a bit. Mean while I should practice with CAD and computer languages.  

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

  MacGyverS2000, my experience with them is the opposite of yours. I found a few jobs in the past through Aerotek, and they have actually done a good job of filtering out the jobs. All I got was electrical design stuff in the automotive or motorcycle field. Which is exactly what I have been doing for 15 or so years.

 Aerotek does have an Automotive division, specifically. Maybe they do a better job at filtering than their other divisions? I can name off several other recruiters that are still spamming me with random jobs that are totally unrelated to what I do.

  I also know that some automotive places, like TRD in Costa Mesa, seem to do a lot of work with Aerotek, and possibly other employment agencies. They prefer this as opposed to direct hire. And the place I suspect John interviewed with does a good bit of work via Aerotek as well.

Milleworks was a company mentioned here. I think they were using a recruiter, but now are doing it internally. Millenworks pays decent, likes to hire people that are FSAE, and seems to hire a lot of people with little automotive industry experience, at least on the electrical side of things.

Aerovironment seems to be a good place to work, from what I have heard. But I know very qualified people that have had no luck getting a foot in the door.

 
 

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

(OP)
I actually worked at AeroVrionment for 6 months on a contract. I quit because they don't hire directly. They keep you as a contract emplyoee for up for 1 or 2 years sometimes with no benefits or vacation. I took my current job because I needed benefits and vacation. But other than the business side, it was a great experience.  

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

John,

When and where (Simi Valley or Monrovia) did you work for AV?  Have you checked out their web site for openings recently?  AV had a lull in business due to the delay in the introduction of the Leaf, but things are going strong now.

Dick

PS. If you are into electric powertrains, what about AC Propulsion in San Dimas?  (They make the motors for the Tesla.)

RE: Hello everyone. What can I do to become an Automotive Engineer?

John,

Also, are you fluent in another language?  What language?  Southern California has a number of automotive companies and first tier suppliers that do international work.  Michigan is great, but I like SoCal.

Dick

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