Final Five

Q&A with Alex McNeely, process engineer at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana

Alex McNeely 

When he's not working on its newest models as a process engineer for Honda, Alex McNeely devotes much of his time to the Center for Leadership Development (CLD), an organization that promotes personal development and education to empower minority youth in pursuing their college and career goals. 

What drives you to be a youth advocate?

From an early age, I remember having someone in my life that would encourage me to do better. I was never able to fully comprehend the impact those words would have on my everyday decisions. As I'm entering my career path and becoming established within the industry, I realize the importance of those soft skills or advice. So today, I want to pay it forward and give someone the same opportunity. I think about the world I want to live in, and it is a world full of innovative and aspiring professionals. I feel as someone who has made it out of one environment and into another, it's my responsibility to share my knowledge and help bring others up to the same place, if not further.

Are there parallels between the roles of mentor and industrial engineer?

I would say that the two roles are exact parallels, just different in application. As an industrial engineer, I take a logical approach to solving problems by weighing decisions based upon their impact in various situations. As a mentor, I have begun to develop modules that can help youth understand how early investments into themselves can help them achieve their goals in the long run. My attempt is not to persuade decisions, only [to] be a positive influence for their own goals.

Does Honda's company culture encourage community outreach?

Honda has an "our team, one goal" philosophy, which I feel is a big game changer when it comes to the manufacturing process. I have noticed that Honda takes a true investment in every single associate. Honda makes sure that it gives just as much back to the community as it utilizes. Multiple times a year we participate in community activities like volunteering at a food bank, judging a science fair and participating in a big brother/big sister program.

What dreams do youth at CLD hope to achieve?

The students at Center for Leadership Development aspire to so much. The surprise to me was that every single student had more than one goal. There were students who wanted to become engineers, doctors, lawyers and even community activists. I even came across a few that looked to start their own businesses. One young man had already begun to write programming codes he wanted to put into use. After hearing so many different perspectives, it gave me motivation to do better. If anything, I saw some of them as future competition or future employees. Knowing this keeps me on top of my game.

Do you try to inspire at Honda as much as at CLD?

Every day I try to follow our "one goal" philosophy and bring that energy every day at work. My goal at Honda is to focus on having optimal application on projects. Since so many different areas have input on a project, it is important to focus on what is best for the project and not always what is best for one particular department.

– Interview by David Brandt 

David Brandt is the Web managing editor for IIE.