In the summer of 2016, Adam Sienczak packed up his Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and drove 12 hours to Auburn Hills, Michigan, where he would discover his love for the automotive industry all over again. For three months Sienczak, a Gustavus Adolphus College senior, had the opportunity to work alongside high-level executives at Chrysler Automobiles, the company that produces Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Trucks.
Sienczak grew up around Chrysler vehicles, helping his dad in the garage, working under the hood of a succession of cars throughout the years. As a teenager he began researching cars on his own, focusing on repairs and vehicle accessories. His interest only increased the closer he got to the age of 16, when he would receive his driver’s license. “I knew that’s what I enjoyed coming into the internship, and I wanted to do it even more,” Sienczak said.
First, he just needed to find a way to get there.
Impressing Chrysler with his knowledge about the company wasn’t going to be an issue, but Sienczak knew he had to stand out on paper amongst the many other applicants. To do this, he worked alongside both his adviser and Gustavus Career Development director Cynthia Favre to discuss possible career paths and ways to approach the company. “We also worked on his resume to include his personal life-long interest in Chrysler products and being an engaged consumer. This was a bit different than most circumstances,” Favre said.
He also made contact with Gustie alum Marley Clark ‘14, who works as an Area Sales Manager for Chrysler. Consistent communication was key, as Sienczak bounced between appointments in the Career Development office and phone conversations with Clark.
After taking advantage of Clark’s advice and connections, Sienczak was approved for the internship program. The next thing he knew, he was moving into a mile-long apartment complex with 600 other interns.
In a company where 90 percent of the interns were engineers, Sienczak was one of the rare students to focus on Brand Management. He was not going on typical intern coffee runs, either. Not only did Sienczak watch cars being built, he got to drive them and suggest which accessories should be included in future models. His consistent research helped guide him toward which items would increase sales.
During his time with Dodge, Sienczak was tasked with exploring the development of branded parts, which customers would buy directly from a dealership. Sienczak spent the summer reaching out to third parties and different suppliers. He brainstormed ideas with the President of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), and by the end of the internship had the opportunity to present his findings to the Head of Passenger Car Brands for Dodge, SRT, Chrysler, and Fiat.
He’ll find out if the products he advocated for made the cut when the 2020 Dodge line is released.
Besides working on projects inside the office, he also got to play around outside. Daily visits to manufacturing plants and track became routine, and Sienczak had the chance to drive experimental cars and travel to the Viper assembly plant. “There is a three million-dollar car there, no other one has ever been made, and I got to sit in it,” Sienczak smiled. “Really, I just nerded out all summer.”
Skills he had obtained throughout his time at Gustavus helped Sienczak communicate effectively, both during the interview and while working in Michigan. “I was the only intern that came from a liberal arts college. I could tell that set me apart from everyone else,” he said.
His focus on networking and passion for the product made Sienczak stand out, Favre said. “Tell people what you are thinking about – even if your ideas are not completely formed. Those people can make referrals that could help get you get to your end goal,” she explained.
With just under two months left until graduation, Sienczak is weighing his options. While he hopes to someday end up back at Chrysler’s corporate headquarters, he’s thinking about working at a dealership first to gain more hands-on experience.
Whatever happens in the furture, Sienczak knows he’ll pair his love for cars with the networking and analytical skills he developed during his time on the Hill.
“My overall experience at Gustavus has helped guide me to become a more efficient communicator. The connections I’ve made here, the people I’ve met, they have all influenced me in many ways. I am more considerate and aware of what is going on around me, and try to include everyone in the conversation,” Sienczak shares. “That’s what made me stand out among all of the other interns.”
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin