The Day – Automakers Are Turning On Disney Designers, Electric Vehicle Racers And Software Specialists To Lead Their Futures
A former Disney Emmy-winning designer helped develop the Jeep Wagoneer. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania wants a future without car accidents. And Ford Motor Co. software engineers are helping harness the monetary potential of data.
Automated, connected and electrified vehicles demand a new kind of worker from traditional automakers. Advances in technology and missions towards a more sustainable future increasingly position them to attract young technological talents from coastal universities, software specialists seeking flexibility in the workplace, psychologists and designers of the entertainment industry that five years ago might not have considered the automotive industry for a career.
Take Youjin Kim, the lead user experience designer on Stellantis NV’s new Wagoneer SUV. He accepted the role in 2016 after more than four years as a graphic designer at Walt Disney Television. He designed Marvel marketing videos, ESPN opening screens for the World Cup and the Olympics, and graphics appearing in Times Square in New York City. Her work even won two Emmy Awards.
“I never imagined I could work with the auto industry back then,” said Kim, 38, of Rochester Hills, Michigan. “Everyone got hired into the entertainment industry right after college and never thought of working in the automobile industry.”
” It’s the future “
Kim graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with degrees in fine arts, graphics, and motion design in 2012. It was less than two years after the iPad debuted.
“I never imagined that large screens could enter the automotive industry,” he said. When they did and became a growing draw for customers, it opened her mind to the possibilities.
Kim had been a car enthusiast since he was a child in Seoul, South Korea. His favorite playground at age 4 was the mountains, where Willys Jeeps stood after the Korean War.
“I’ve always been amazed,” Kim said. “It was like, ‘This is my dream car.'”
Even when he arrived at the age of 28 in a crowded New York City, Kim had his Jeep Wrangler.
“I saw improvements I could make,” he said of the vehicle’s infotainment system. “With my skills, I created some of the vision videos to really express what this could be for the automobile of the future. I submitted it on the recruiter’s site because back then it was FCA and now it’s Stellantis. I never thought twice that I was going to be contacted.
It was around this time, however, that Vince Galante – now chief designer of UX, or Stellantis’ user experience and advanced design – was leaving his role as designer of exterior vehicles. He was tasked with enhancing the UX team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV by focusing on the now industry leading Uconnect infotainment system and the customer experience of its vehicles.
“The first day I had no idea what UX was,” said Galante. “We started talking and working, and my brain was exploding, ‘This is the future. “”
That meant installing Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa virtual assistant and now its Fire TV in cars, which meant the team needed web designers. This meant using Unreal Engine and Unity, platforms used to create video games, so the company hired designers from that industry. It also meant being in tune with how customers think and react to certain stimuli. So the team found UX designers with a background in psychology.
“It’s hard to find them,” Galante said.
The global UX team has tripled in the past three years, he said. Many hires come from referrals or from job seekers who apply. The company has also expanded its college recruiting pipeline beyond Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California.
On the psychology front, he’s partnered with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on projects over the past three to four years. The team recruiter is also looking to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and the Cleveland Institute of Art and the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.
Kim received a call from FCA four months after submitting her video to the company. He has since worked on UX for the Wagoneer as well as other Jeep, Maserati and Chrysler products. He is particularly excited about the Wagoneer’s new “Relax” mode, a “cinematic” experience featuring sounds and images of the Northern Lights or a crackling fire on the vehicle’s three front screens. The feature is inspired by the statistic that 10% of people use their vehicles for hiding.
“You give customers a moment of emotion,” Kim said, explaining that he was inspired by the design of the Times Square billboards and the timing of the displays across the many screens. “Now it is moving to the automotive industry with the three different screens for the cluster, the terminal unit and the passenger screen. It’s the same audience, but now it’s more of a personalized experience for users.
“Much more valuable”
Many of Jack Roseman’s friends who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania will soon be traveling to New York to work in the banking industry. Roseman, however, will be heading to Motor City, a place he’s never been to but hopes to make a difference in the auto industry.
The 23-year-old from the Philadelphia area didn’t grow up in a family of autoworkers like many Michiganians. But he will begin his career at General Motors Co. this month as a software engineer after his recent graduation.
“Everyone wants to work at Google, Facebook,” Roseman said. “In my mind, I wasn’t really shooting for companies like that because I just thought they got too high profile and didn’t have as much value from a societal point of view as something like moving companies around. millions of people every day so they can get to work. It’s just a lot more precious to me.
Roseman sees the societal value of the electric and autonomous technologies that GM and others are developing. He wants to help prevent collisions caused by human error with self-driving cars, create better software for vehicles to communicate on the road, and develop more sustainable transportation.
Since 2017, GM has proclaimed its mission to achieve zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion with its EV and AV technologies. Last year, the Detroit-based automaker ramped up plans for electric vehicles. The ultimate goal is to have a full zero-emission range by 2035.
“I will say that one of the biggest things that attracted me was GM’s huge shift towards a more technology-driven company,” Roseman said.
Last November, GM set a goal of hiring 3,000 new engineering, design and information technology employees “to help transform the future of product development and technology. software as a service ‘.
Roseman was a kid who “always liked to build stuff.” With his 3D printer, he made his ideas tangible. Then he turned to computing and the creative possibilities that exist with a simple Internet connection.
His interest in manufacturing electric vehicles peaked when he joined the Penn Electric Racing team, competing with other universities “to design, design, manufacture, develop and compete with small formula-style vehicles,” according to the competition website.
“I just found it to be very difficult,” he said. “There is so much potential in what you can do when you electrify a car and connect sensors to it with smart computers. “
Ford, meanwhile, is keen to shift its business model from a model in which customers mostly make large one-time purchases to one that keeps customers coming back and paying for data-driven features and services with live updates.
To that end, the Blue Oval has been a hiring wave of sorts. Alex Purdy, business operations manager for enterprise connectivity, said last week that Ford employed around 6,000 software engineers and data scientists, 600 of whom were hired in the last year alone.
“From now on, with next-generation technology now standard in our latest F-150 and Mach-E models, we are approaching every opportunity as a software-driven business,” he said.
Doron Elliott began creating the on-board software development group three years ago within Ford’s autonomous vehicles division. He has witnessed the growth of software development capabilities during his 15-year career at Ford, where he previously focused on infotainment.
“When you examine a new vehicle today, our vehicles contain thousands of parts and millions and millions of lines of code,” said Elliott, a native of Detroit, a graduate of Oakland University and living near the United States. downtown Detroit. “We’re really focusing on software development. We’ve been talking about bringing more software development in-house … and that’s been a pretty big change over the last 15 years, where we’re now hiring software developers, developing our own solutions and putting them on the market. market.”
The Elliott team is working on software that will be integrated with autonomous vehicles that the automaker is developing to market commercial self-driving services next year.
“What really excites me about Ford and more specifically our AV division is that we are trying to solve one of the most difficult mobility technology challenges that our industry has faced in our generation.” , Elliott said. “And the opportunity to be part of the team that is developing some of this technology to deliver this solution to the public is extremely appealing to me.”
Many of the employees tasked with addressing these challenges were based before the pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders at Ford’s under construction mobility campus in Corktown, Michigan. The automaker is renovating the old Michigan Central Depot and surrounding buildings.
Ford sees the new campus as a recruiting tool as well as a major update to its research and engineering campus in Dearborn. This project aims to transform dozens of obsolete buildings into a consolidated, modern workplace that offers flexibility for in-person and remote work while providing employees and members of the public with an engaging experience within walking distance.
Elliott said the mobility campus was part of what motivated him to apply for his current job, and is also a draw for potential recruits.
“When we walked into the office, I really appreciated the location,” he said. “I love the restaurants in the Corktown area, I love the proximity to downtown Detroit and I appreciated the opportunity to cycle to work.”
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