The SAE World Congress Experience
The annual SAE WCX17 event brings together industry experts who delve into the world of automotive technology. This year, over 11,000 attendees (primarily engineers) from all over the world met in Detroit from April 4-6 to discuss and explore the latest automotive engineering challenges, innovations, and futuristic ideas. Several DISHER team members attended and below are a few of their firsthand experiences.

A Big Picture View of Product Development – James Szymanowski

Megan Neese of Nissan North America, Inc. gave an insightful presentation on how the products we use every day are becoming smarter. She encouraged the audience to not let product development end there but continue to take it to the next level. For example, a product like a farm tractor can evolve into a smart product (collecting data) which can further evolve into a connected smart product (collecting data and talking to other products). This connected smart product is part of a product system. A farming system (with tillers, planters, etc.) can connect and interact with other systems (a trucking system connected to a grocery store system). By thinking about and preparing for the big picture, we can realistically see a future with little pollution. Autonomous-connect products can improve our physical health, mental health, and quality of life. As engineers, we can make a positive impact in our world.

DISHER team at SAE

Excel and Evolve with the Times – James Szymanowski

The “Effects of Automated Technology” roundtable with leaders from DENSO, Zipcar, Lyft, General Motors, and Uber was interesting. I enjoyed watching these competitors bounce ideas off each other and work together to come up with revolutionary concepts to improve society. They shared that many OEMs are changing how they want to be perceived. Autonomous technology and other new types of transportation services are significantly changing the automotive industry, and OEMs need to evolve with the times. OEMs are transitioning from being known as “auto makers” to “providers of mobility”. Their closing statements motivated the audience to do more and not let mediocracy rule. “We need OEMs to lead the charge—make it and show it,” they said. They also commented that the government needs to help with infrastructure. Lastly, they challenged automotive suppliers by commenting, “Find your place and excel at it— if you can’t see it, create it.”

SAE Conference Speech

Networking and Talent Attraction – Allison Ives

From the Talent Attraction perspective, I met with recruiting and HR professionals in the careers section of WCX17. These organizations were hiring for professional-level engineering positions. What a great space for job-seekers to spend quality time with recruiters. For me, it was a business development opportunity to get in front of HR teams and decision-makers from various organizations. The rest of the expo provided a great opportunity for me to learn more about technology in the automotive industry and talk to experts.

Inside SAE

Selling Yourself vs. Selling Your Company – Nathan Cummings

Throughout life we spend considerable time selling ourselves to some degree… whether at school, playing sports, making friends, getting into college, finding a job or a spouse, etc. By this I mean, we are showing something or someone else what we have to offer them. We learn how to adjust the way we sell based on who we’re selling to. If I was interviewing for a baseball coaching position for example, I would focus on my skills and experience with baseball, team leading, organization, and teaching. Over time, I have grown quite comfortable with the skill of selling myself.

This all got challenged at the 2017 SAE WCX Conference when I wasn’t just selling myself anymore— I was also representing DISHER. I quickly realized that while I knew a great deal about DISHER, I had not practiced selling our services. I had a renewed appreciation for salespeople as I was trying to figure out what specific value DISHER could bring to the unique companies we were encountering. As my elevator speech became more refined, I found that in the same way I adjusted the way I sold myself; I had to adjust my talking points to benefit the audience because of the many different solutions we provide. It became apparent that even as an engineer, I need to be prepared as I am always selling… and there’s a certain sense of pride that comes with representing something larger than just me.


Written By: James Szymanowski, Allison Ives, and Nathan Cummings |

James has a B.S. in Plastics Engineering Technology from Penn State Erie with over 9 years of industry experience.  He is a certified CATIA V5 Part Design & Surface Design Specialist and also an active member of the Society of Automotive Engineers.  He has a wide range of automotive component diversity with many OEMs.  In his free time, James enjoys competing in running events, helping at Habitat for Humanity builds, traveling, and camping.

Allison is a graduate from Grand Valley State University, with studies in Public Administration, Business, and Public Relations & Advertising. She began with DISHER as an intern, and now recruits for internal and external positions as a part of the Talent Attraction Team. Allison also loves continuing to learn through her passions in painting, playing music, and traveling.

“I believe you reap what you sow; therefore, I work hard to get the most out of every opportunity given,” comments Nathan. Nathan enjoys life and lives it with purpose in Christ. His hobbies include mission trips, recreational vehicles, sports, and spending time with family. Nathan’s alma matter is Ferris State where he received an Automotive Engineering Technology degree. On Karaoke night, Nathan would sing with Long Black Train by Josh Turner.