DENSO employees across North America show their support for each other, customers and local communities in many ways, both big and small. We understand we’re at our best when working as a team to make improvements, impress our customers and exceed expectations.
These Spotlights show how our teams are putting DENSO Spirit into action.
You Can Succeed: Rafael Jimenez’s Career Journey
In March 2007, Rafael Jimenez began his DENSO career in a temporary production role at DENSO Products and Services America, Inc. (DPAM), the company’s aftermarket unit based in Long Beach, California. After joining full-time in August that year, Rafael was off and running on his career journey.
“After being a line associate, I became part of the team that launched the fuel injector business at DPAM, then went back to being a line associate,” he said. “For the next eight years, I worked in various areas, including quality, water treatment, disassembly and assembly.”
Beth Rollins Spotlight: Get Curious and Collaborative to Manufacture Results
Beth started her career with DENSO in 1998 in Production Control Logistics at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Maryville, Tennessee. After two years, she moved into a Quality Engineering role. From there she went on to support with the opening of a new facility on the Maryville campus, and then transitioned into her first leadership role in Total Industrial Engineering. She then left DENSO for six years before coming back into a Manufacturing Strategy & Planning role, and later transitioned into Excellent Factory Planning. In 2022, she was promoted to her current position as senior manager of Logistics Engineering & Innovation.
Mentoring, Training and Certification: Jonathan Ng’s Career Journey
We meet a lot of people in our lives – some come, some go. Others become a fixture. For Jonathan Ng, a business development project manager at DENSO Products and Services America, Inc. (DPAM), DENSO’s aftermarket unit in Long Beach, California, people have been essential on his career journey.
Early in his career, Jonathan found himself to be an unemployed architecture graduate. After reflecting on what would be next, he took a chance, joining an automotive lighting manufacturer. As part of the job, he regularly attended the annual Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo (AAPEX) show in Las Vegas.
Three Countries, Three Product Lines, One DENSO: Keith Plemons’ Career Journey
Keith Plemons is not afraid of change. Since starting as a production engineer in 1999 in the fuel injector business at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Athens, Tennessee, he’s worked on multiple products in three countries. Was this his original plan? Not really.
“When I started, my goal was to be a manager, eventually being a leader within engineering,” Keith said. “While working in Japan in 2002, I found mentors who provided valuable 1:1 coaching and helped me identify future opportunities as well as what I needed to do to achieve them.”
Believe in Yourself – Dan Okray’s Career Journey
You won’t find Dan Okray taking the easy road – he thrives on challenge. Much of this stems from a rough childhood, full of tough situations and people categorizing him as someone who wouldn’t accomplish much.
“I was living in government-subsidized housing with a chaotic homelife, including alcoholism and abuse,” Dan said. “I was on a path that would result in most people living a similar life, but I refused to fall into the cycle.”
Dan’s determination kicked in during high school when a counselor told him that “college isn’t for everyone,” insinuating he should look to other avenues.
“What she didn’t know is I’m often motivated by people telling me I can’t do something. I know I can. Some call it obstinance, I call it grit,” he said.
Katie Walters’ Career Journey: Everyone Has Something They Can Teach You
Learning. Understanding. Contributing. These are the keys to success for Katie Walters, director of Supply Chain Management and Logistics at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Maryville, Tennessee.
“I’ve taken several leadership classes at DENSO, but most of my development has come from mentoring and learning on the job,” Katie said. “I’ve had really great leaders who have given me lots of advice and coaching. Sometimes they nudged me when I wasn’t comfortable stretching myself. They pushed me to be brave and supported me along the way.”
Donovan Pierce’s Career Journey: Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
“You have no idea what you are capable of until you try.”
Donovan Pierce, a 20-year DENSO employee, has advice for others considering the next step in their career journey.
“Don’t limit yourself with doubts or worries about lack of experience. If you face new challenges with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, you will be successful,” he said.
Career Journey Spotlight: Chris Wisniewski Applies Past Experience, New Skills to Electrification
The automotive industry is evolving at a rapid pace. To keep up, companies also need to change, which requires flexibility in processes, operations and people. As DENSO looks to where the industry is going, such as with electrification, it wants to work with current team members in applying their skills and knowledge to new products and technology. This is how DENSO will thrive in the mobility industry.
Juan Santos: A Grateful Veteran Growing his Skills in Battle Creek, Michigan
My name is Juan Santos, I joined DENSO in 2015, and today I’m a quality technician at DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. I’m responsible for ensuring parts are within specification, reporting results and calibrating tooling used in production activities.
Mike Winkler, VP of North America Purchasing, on Compassion, Collaboration, and the Future of the Supply Chain
It's important to recognize that our suppliers are people and genuinely interested in meeting our expectations. In the past, however, that has sometimes been overlooked.
But if we show compassion and be a collaborative partner, it helps our suppliers feel more supported and comfortable working with us. We will also find it creates more trust, sharing and a better, more collaborative environment in which to develop technology, benefitting everyone.
I developed this belief over time, working with my own staff. When I came to DENSO’s North American headquarters in 2015, I became part of and began to lead a much larger team filled with different people, dynamics, and perspectives.
Employee Spotlight: Noa Sanchez, Spreading Passion for Production Quality and Latin Culture in Maryville, Tennessee
Originally from California, Noa Sanchez two years ago took a leap of faith after college, travelling across the country to join our Maryville, Tennessee, team as a process engineer.
It seems that leap has landed him on solid ground. In his role, Noa is building the foundations of his career, growing his DENSO network in Maryville and across the region, and celebrating and promoting awareness of his Latin culture as part of our business resource group, DENSO Associates for Latin Experience (DALE).
Intern Spotlight: Austin and Matthew Allison, Twins and Engineering Interns in Maryville, Tennessee
They say twins share a special bond, so when it came time to find summer internships, it’s no surprise Austin and Matthew Allison ended up at the same place – DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Maryville, Tennessee.
That decision seems to have worked out well for the fraternal twins. As they enter their senior years at the University of Tennessee’s Tickle College of Engineering, both now have a summer of professional experience to their names and will continue part-time with DENSO as they finish their electrical engineering degrees.
Be Your Own Advocate, Learn As Much As You Can
Denise joined DENSO 24 years ago as an assembly associate at DENSO Manufacturing Michigan (DMMI), lead production facility for DENSO’s North American Thermal business. Having worked in various roles, for nearly every department at DMMI, Denise now shares her love for learning as an HR assistant in the NA Technical Training Center, creating, teaching and managing various safety courses for production and skilled trades associates, overseeing the Apprenticeship Program, and promoting skilled trades.
Employee Spotlight: 9,000 Hours Later, Andrew Saltzman Becomes a DENSO Journeyman
After more than 9,000 hours of training and learning, Andrew Saltzman completed his DENSO tool and die apprenticeship this spring.
“I don’t think there was a part of my apprenticeship I didn’t enjoy,” said Andrew, an employee at DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. “Every task was a learning opportunity, whether working in tool and die, facilities or even for a short period in production when they needed help.”
Employee Spotlight: Christina Khim, Creating Value and Inclusion
I’ve been with DENSO for over 6 years and had opportunities to learn and grow in different parts of the Human Resources (HR) department. Recently, I took a new role as an Advanced HR Business Partner focusing on our full-time workforce and talent management at our thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan.
What motivates me is to “try not to become a person of success, but try to become a person of value,” as Albert Einstein once said. In everything I do, I want to be a valuable person for the people surrounding me, the organization I work for and the community I live in.
Employee Spotlight: Beth Russell, Product Launcher and Women Supporter
I’m a program leader within the Program Management Office at DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, I lead inter-department teams in launching new thermal products for our North American customers. My proudest achievement is the relationships I’ve built during almost 25 years at DENSO.
Employee Spotlight: Andrea Friedrich Boosts Business, Colleagues’ Development
My current role is sales manager within the Heavy Duty Sales department at DENSO’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Michigan. In this position, I’m primarily responsible for leading a team that collaborates with some of DENSO’s top off-highway customers, including Caterpillar, CNH and Bobcat. I have past experience in the Sales Division working with other customers like Toyota, Stellantis, VW, Audi and BMW.
Employee Spotlight: Bonita Montgomery, Industrial Engineer and Mentor
I currently serve as a manager of the Total Industrial Engineering and Automation department at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Athens, Tennessee. I have been with the company for almost 18 years, so there are many proud moments. If I had to pick, it would be supporting new engineers as they grow and develop in the company.
April Banner: Innovates Production, Expands Opportunities for Women in Maryville, Tennessee
I’m a manager of Flex and Innovation Production Engineering at DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee, facility. As the site continues to transition to a manufacturing hub for electrification and safety systems, our team helps Production Engineering groups retain institutional knowledge, share engineering expertise and continually innovate our approach. It creates a win-win situation for our team and products, and our customers.
Spotlight on Matthew Johnson: Transferring from Thermal to R&D Engineering
When you work at DENSO, you aren’t confined to one role or team. Our employees have the chance - and are encouraged - to reskill and move to different positions within the company. Here’s what Matthew Johnson, R&D engineer at our North America Research and Engineering Center, had to say about his experience:
Tenured Employee Spotlight: Linda Huber
Some of our employees have watched us grow from the ground up. Linda Huber, Senior Talent Management Consultant at our Southfield, Mich. facility, started her career with us 1985 - that was before we had even built our North American plants! Here’s what Linda had to say about her experience:
Employee Spotlight: Beth Rollins, Excelling in Manufacturing Planning & Women’s Empowerment
All roads lead home. But for Beth Rollins, manager of Excellent Factory (EF) Planning at DENSO in Maryville, Tennessee, all roads lead back to DENSO. After leaving the company in 2012, she returned in 2018.
And she’s making quite an impact. She leads a team responsible for coordinating EF activities across the campus and serves as the engineering function in logistics and warehouse areas. Beth’s dedication to her job and team resulted in a peer nominating her for The Manufacturing Institute’s 2020 STEP Ahead Awards, which annually recognize women in science, technology, engineering and production careers who exemplify leadership within their companies.
Associate Spotlight: Michelle Dermody, Manufacturing and D&I leader
DENSO is committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I) and making its work environments more supportive and welcoming for all. It’s important work led by the DENSO D&I Council, a cross-functional, cross-location team of leaders dedicated to implementing strategies that help us fulfill our D&I mission. Meet one of those leaders: Michelle Dermody, also a director at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Spotlight on Matthew Agius: Reskilling From Design to Electronics Engineering
At DENSO, there are always opportunities for our associates to move around within the organization - after all, we are the makers of mobility! Matthew Agius recently made the move from design engineer to electronics engineering. Here’s what he had to say about reskilling:
“When I was a design engineer in Telematics, I enjoyed my work and team. But the core functionality in a vehicle doesn’t change with each model year, so the system tests and hardware design became repetitive. When my manager came across an opportunity and asked if I’d be interested, I said yes. It was time to try something new and I’m comfortable taking risks."
Employee Spotlight: David Huguley – Quality Engineer, Minister, Change Agent
We all need more hours in the day. But you know who really needs them? David Huguley, a manager of Quality Engineering at DENSO’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Michigan, who on April 3 will celebrate his 26th year at the company.
When he’s not leading Quality Systems Improvement efforts – a demanding task in its own right – you can find him doing a range of things to serve those around him:
Employee Spotlight: Powertrain Veteran Dan Sweeney Retires After 29 Years at DENSO
Dan Sweeney has seen it all. For almost 30 years, he’s been with DENSO through the good – exciting new products and technologies, countless growth opportunities – and the bad – business downturns, a global pandemic. But through it all, Dan has been a committed, hard-working employee who values his colleagues and takes the initiative to make a difference in his career, at DENSO and the world.
Before we bid a fond farewell to Dan – and he begins his international travels with his wife– we wanted to share his DENSO story.
DENSO New Hire Spotlight: Jami Carpenter
Welcome to the team, Jami Carpenter! Jami recently joined DENSO’s North American team as a Production Control Specialist and is ready to put her strong work ethic into practice.
“I’m driven to want to do a good job,” said Jami. “I always want to learn and expand my capabilities into new areas, and I feel that DENSO creates great opportunities for me to do so.”
Jami became a DENSO associate just as businesses across North America started adapting to combat the effects of COVID-19. While this created new challenges, Jami said that the most important thing to her was that she felt safe working at her facility.
DENSO New Hire Spotlight: Arthur Cardente
We’re excited to welcome Arthur Cardente to the DENSO team! Arthur is our new Regional Sales Manager for DENSO NA’s Northeast region.
Joining a new company in the midst of COVID-19 can be difficult. But despite the challenges, Arthur shared that one of the benefits of joining a team like DENSO’s was his colleagues’ willingness to help him adjust to his new role.
“Everyone has been truly helpful and more than willing to do whatever is needed for me to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day procedures,” said Arthur.
DENSO Tenured Associate Spotlight: Karen Croly
When you know, you know. And when it comes to finding “the one,” you don’t let go. Just ask our many tenured employees. Through name changes, shifts in company direction and new, innovative technologies that advance mobility, our tenured employees have shown their DENSO Spirit every step of the way.
Karen Croly, who works within the purchasing department at DENSO’s Southfield facility, has been part of the DENSO family for more than four decades (wow!). She’s one of our longest-tenured employees to date. And while we could tell you all about Karen’s time at DENSO -- how she’s grown her career, how her colleagues have become family (literally) -- we thought who better to tell you about her experience than Karen herself.
DENSO Spirit Spotlight: Ravi Vadapalli
Venkata Ravisankar Vadapalli (Ravi, for short), a technical lead for DENSO’s phone-as-a-key (PaaK) project, was laser focused on making the development process run effectively when the team of 15+ engineers were working remotely.
The PaaK project started in 2017 with the goal of replacing traditional car key fobs with a customer’s smartphone to start the vehicle. Pretty cool, right?
While the first PaaK technology produced by DENSO entered the market in 2020, DENSO has continued to enhance the software. This is what Ravi’s team, BES2 (Body Electronic Systems2) Ford PaaK Team, was working on when COVID-19 hit.
Legacy Employee/Associate Spotlight: Dwayne Taylor
We are so grateful for the people who make careers for themselves at DENSO. These individuals repeatedly show the values key to DENSO Spirit -- foresight, credibility and collaboration -- and continually strive to make DENSO a great place to work, all while delivering exemplary service to our customers and communities.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to some of DENSO’s longest-serving associates/employees. They’ll share what drew them to DENSO and more importantly, why they’ve stayed.
Meet Dwayne Taylor. Dwayne first joined DENSO’s Southfield, Mich. location back in 1986!
DENSO New Hire Spotlight: Christian Widgren
Welcome to DENSO’s North American team, Christian! Christian relocated from one of DENSO’s European facilities just as countries implemented travel bans to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Originally from Bolivia, Christian was working for DENSO in Germany before he relocated to the U.S. It took him several months to make it over, but Christian’s positive, collaborative attitude throughout the process was immediately noticed by his supervisor. In his new role, Christian is a senior sales planning specialist, focusing on business operations and planning for DENSO in North America.
DENSO Co-op Spotlight: Jonathan Garcia
Each year, students from top engineering colleges and universities across the country - Stanford, Ohio State, and University of Michigan to name a few - join the DENSO Co-op program for the opportunity to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it to work.
Meet Jonathan Garcia, a senior at Cal Poly Pomona studying mechanical engineering.
DENSO Co-op Spotlight: Julianne Cinoman
Julianne Cinoman just completed DENSO’s Co-op program in Maryville, Tenn. She learned how to use several of the production machines on the plant floor, and was even able to run tests and make changes on them to continually improve the process (which she says was the best part!).
DENSO New Hire Spotlight: Louis Remynse
Welcome (back) to Louis Remynse! Louis began his internship with DENSO in May, returning for a second consecutive year for more opportunities to learn and grow.
DENSO New Hire Spotlight: Christine Quast
Since March, we’ve had a number of new faces join the DENSO family across North America. Because of the global pandemic, we have not always had the opportunity to meet and greet these talented individuals face-to-face. Over the coming weeks, we will spotlight some of our newest employees and hear directly from them what it was like to start a new job at DENSO during the coronavirus outbreak.
Sergio Pujols Helps DENSO Deliver Respirator Components in 25 Days
DENSO was able to help one of our customers deliver medical equipment components from concept to production in 25 days. Sergio Pujols, director of research and development at DENSO’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Michigan, and one of the project leaders, shares how we did it.
North American IT Team Completes Mission Impossible
DENSO’s North American IT (NAITS) team was in the middle of executing mission impossible: transitioning its North American infrastructure from Lotus Notes to Microsoft O365. No obstacle is too great for the NAITS team – even a global pandemic.
The Super Six: Radiator Service Crimp Team
Meet the Super Six! The radiator service crimp team at DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Mich., continued to deliver essential service parts even while the auto industry shutdown due to COVID-19.
Britt Autry: A Man on a Mission
As automakers slowed production of vehicles due to COVID-19, Britt Autry, vice president of manufacturing at DENSO’s Maryville, Tenn. operations, came together with other executives to chart a new course for their employees and plant operations.