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3 Takeaways From the Building a Technology-First Automotive Workforce Webinar

Recently, Udacity founder —Sebastian Thrun — sat down with leaders from the automotive industry to discuss strategies for surviving disruption in automotive talent transformation

The webinar, titled Building a Technology-First Automotive Workforce, featured insight from leaders of the automotive industry, including:

  • Adam Yeloushan, HR Director of IT & Software Development at GM
  • Gero Kempf, SVP Engineering at AUDI AG
  • Alper Tekeli, Engineering Director of Vehicle Software & Electric/Electronic Systems at Ford
  • Christoph Grote, SVP of Electronics & Software at BMW

Together, these four industry leaders provide insights into how companies can gracefully transform their technologies and upskill their workforces. Keep reading for the top three takeaways from the Building a Technology-First Automotive Workforce webinar.

1. Automotive Companies Are Seeking Workers with a Combination of Expertise

As time goes on, cars are becoming less about the mechanical parts and more about the software and tech that they use. Because of this, many automotive companies are pivoting to becoming software and platform companies. While hiring mechanical engineers is still an important job for recruiters, the focus is much higher on individuals who have a combination of skills in both mechanical engineering and computer science, data, or artificial intelligence.

When Adam Yeloushan was asked what he would recommend to a young person to study, he said, “Computer science, electrical engineering… those kinds of pursuits are going be what’s driving all of our companies.” 

Of course, computer science and coding alone are no longer much of a descriptor of talents anymore. Adam recommends that learners focus on honing a cross-section of skills. For the automotive industry, that includes things like automation, artificial intelligence, sensors, and big data processing.

The biggest upside is that companies care a lot less now about the specific degree a candidate holds, but are more interested in seeing that they can display the skills they claim to have. 

If a potential employee has a degree in mechanical engineering, but then took the time to learn how to code from an online course that is going to be incredibly appealing to recruiters because it shows not only a useful crossover of skills but also the initiative to learn.

2. Flexibility Is a Key To Success for Automotive Businesses and Workers

Sebastian asked each of the panelists what they foresee the future of the automotive industry to look like ten years in the future. All of them generally agreed that autonomous vehicles and fully electric vehicles were on the horizon, but the most interesting prediction had to do with the need for flexibility.

When it comes to realizing the future, there are a lot of roadblocks already in place. Autonomous vehicles are limited by the public’s general trust in their safety. The ability of any company to build the next generation of vehicles is limited by the supply chain availability of necessary parts. Engineers are limited by industry rules and standards. All of these things can slow down advancement, unless workers, and companies at large, can take on a flexible approach.

Alper Tekeli put it this way: “It’s very important to have creative people and experts who are flexible enough to bend the rules in a safe and secure way.” 

He likened it to the traditional automotive industry working like a classical symphony would. That flexibility he’s talking about is akin to transitioning that orchestra into playing jazz music. It requires balance, teamwork, a good understanding of the system at large, a willingness to learn, and flexibility to go with the flow of things and think outside the box.

3. Automotive Companies Will Be Establishing a Culture of Lifelong Learning From a Variety of Educational Sources

Lifelong learning has long been a buzzword in the tech community, but what does it really mean? Christoph Grote said it best: “I think the crucial thing is that lifelong learning is not just to get some stimulation later in your life when you’re bored, but really to acquire skills that you can do something with.” Of course, continually learning can help you stay sharp as you age, but really following passions and honing a useful skillset is what has companies excited about lifelong learners.

According to Grote, many universities are failing to pass on this mentality. Instead, the way the systems work encourages students to focus on passing exams, not truly absorbing the material and building craftsmanship. The key to establishing lifelong learning and a desire for craftsmanship, though, stems from the ecosystem of the company. That desire to build and improve must come from the top down.

The best news, especially for job seekers, is that Adam Yeloushan, the HR Director, says that most companies are now willing to look at candidates outside of the traditional university system.

 “It’s college degrees, people’s experience,” Yeloushan says, “it’s current people that are redefining their skill sets; it’s also people that go to a boot camp or go through Udacity and come out as valuable candidates for us to put to work. So we can’t turn away from any alternative.”

 The ability to upskill or reskill without going back to school for an expensive degree will open the door to many future automotive workers who are interested in helping to better the transportation industry.

Watch the Webinar on Building a Technology-First Automotive Workforce

The Future of the Automotive Industry

The future of the automotive industry is bright. With the gradual introduction of electric vehicles, self-driving cars, and more useful software being built right into the vehicles, the transportation industry is a good place to find life-changing work. Now is the best possible time to start reskilling, upskilling, or just adding to your lifelong learning and desire to hone craftsmanship. 

Check out Udacity’s Nanodegree programs, particularly the School of Autonomous Systems, to get started today.

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Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer is a content writer at Udacity with over 10 years of content creation and marketing communications experience in the tech, e-commerce and online learning spaces. When she’s not working to inform, engage and inspire readers, she’s probably drinking too many lattes and scouring fashion blogs.