Engineering Alumni Spotlight: Adam Niner
Adam Niner, BSME ’14, MBA ’20, has a critical leadership role in the Technical Rotation and Career Knowledge (TRACK) program at General Motors, which provides job rotation experience to new engineers. It’s a program of which he has first-hand knowledge — he was part of it when GM hired him shortly after graduation in 2014. Niner’s experience with the automotive giant, and as a Wayne State student, supports the notion that hard work, adaptability, open-mindedness and a thirst for knowledge can take an engineer as far as they want to go.
Can you please describe your career path?
My first step in my career path was as a health physics technician within WSU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. After spending some time working with the team in the different labs across the Midtown campus, I was able to secure a co-op position at General Motors in their global facilities division (the named has changed many times). Throughout my multiple co-op rotations, I traveled to different manufacturing sites to support a wide variety of projects, from energy management in refurbished production sites to managing construction of new testing facilities. I also had the opportunity to work with one of the company’s industrial engineering teams on optimizing an engine assembly process at one of the plants.
Upon graduating with my undergraduate degree I was hired into a position within vehicle engineering at General Motors. I was also part of the Technical Rotation and Career Knowledge (TRACK) program which enabled me to rotate to different positions within my interests during my first two years at the company. My first rotation was in the advanced vehicle design space as a compartment integration design engineer. In this role, I managed the virtual combination of studio and engineering needs on GM’s compact car and performance vehicle platforms. I rotated into a component validation engineer position next, supporting the mid-size truck programs’ HVAC and engine temperature control systems. I exited the TRACK program into a more permanent role as a design release engineer for electrical switches and controls. In this position I owned parts across multiple vehicle platforms, supported several product launches at plants, managed the sourcing of new components and much more. After several years as a DRE I transitioned to my current role as a TRACK moves lead, supporting the part of the process where new engineers find their more permanent positions after their career rotations. While the program has evolved and grown over the years, my responsibilities focus on managing and improving the process of providing early career experience to new engineers at General Motors.
Describe the ways you’ve stayed connected to Wayne State since graduation.
I’ve been able to stay connected to WSU through the Industry Mentor Program and my responsibilities with the Society of Automotive Engineers. As a mentor I get the chance to meet the next engineers in the industry and learn what’s new at Wayne State. As a volunteer and member of SAE, and an alumni of WSU’s Formula SAE team, I find it’s invaluable to stay connected to the members of SAE at WSU even if some of the more traditional in-person events have been affected by COVID-19.
With what other organizations do you volunteer, and what are your hobbies and interests?
The Society of Automotive Engineers is the primary organization I volunteer with, but I also have worked with the American Cancer Society and other community organizations. On the personal side, I enjoying woodworking, gardening, traveling and video games.
Why did you choose to attend Wayne State?
I was born and raised in Southeast Michigan and did not have any plans of traveling far for education. WSU offered an affordable route to a quality engineering education, all while being located within Midtown — lots to do and plenty of great places to eat.
How did your education at Wayne State prepare you for what you are doing today?
Classes at WSU taught me how to learn challenging topics quickly and how to pull together a team to accomplish a big project. I utilize both of these concepts frequently in my day-to-day work.
Who influenced you the most during your time at Wayne State?
There were many individuals who positively influenced me during my time at WSU. Dr. Michele Grimm, Dr. Marcis Jansons and Dr. Nabil Chalhoub were key faculty members who helped shape my educational and extracurricular experiences. I was also grateful to have WSU alumni at General Motors during my co-op rotations, as I had the chance to listen to their stories and advice. My classmates and peers were also incredibly important, especially those within Warrior Racing.
What is the most important thing you learned at Wayne State?
The most important thing was learning how to learn. Every course, professor and project has a different learning curve. It is important to put in the time, ask questions, meet with the professors and adapt to the subject. Being able to learn a new topic or concept quickly is an invaluable engineering tool.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Wayne State?
There are so many opportunities to get involved in extracurriculars, or to network with companies and sponsors on campus (or virtually). Putting in the effort to connect with these groups and industry experts throughout your education gives you a chance to learn new things, find areas of interest you may never have thought of, grow your personal and professional network, and have a lot of fun.