The Road to General Motors
Considering this century’s stunning advances in the automotive industry, it is no surprise that Ringling College of Art and Design alumni are putting their skills to work at General Motors (GM). One of the world’s automotive powerhouses, GM employs more than 180,000 people around the world, including Ringling College graduates.
One of those is Karen de los Santos, Computer Animation ’16, who today is a creative sculptor for Cadillac exteriors. She noted that public speaking and handling feedback were just a couple of the skills she learned at Ringling College that have proved to be especially helpful in her career. “Working for a big company, you have to be comfortable sharing your ideas and solutions and speaking in front of leadership,” de los Santos explained. “The critiques in Computer Animation prepared me for projecting my ideas in a corporate environment.” Exposing her ideas to different audiences was also crucial, as was learning how to apply similar techniques to different problems. “I took modeling classes for Illustration and Animation, and I applied those software skills to different subjects,” she said. “That has also been really helpful.”
She describes Illustration’s collaboration with GM as a real door-opener. “A big aspect of the Ringling College experience is the way the classes network you into the corporate world,” de los Santos said. “GM has actively worked with the Center for Career Services as a recruiter for seven years,” said Charles Kovacs, director of the Center for Career Services. “When they worked through the Collaboratory, they made employment offers to 10 students who worked with the project of expressing the concept of speed using their industryquality car sculpting clay,” he said.
Alek Betancourt, Illustration ‘15, is a digital sculptor in user-experience for Cadillac. He praises Ringling College for helping him prepare for teamwork, creative problem-solving, and 3D modeling. “When I applied for this position, my interviewers were interested in my collaborative skills,” Betancourt said. He describes Illustration as “a big umbrella — you can go anywhere with it. My fundamentals classes wound up being my most important classes. If you understand all of the elements of art and design, you can succeed in any industry,” he said.
Jeff John, Computer Animation ’05, a sculptor with Cadillac, has been at GM for 14 years. It was his first job right out of Ringling College. John hand builds clay models of cars, both scale and full-size, exterior and interior. “I was prepared for that,” he said. “In Computer Animation I learned how to work in Maya, which is similar to what computer modelers at GM do.” He gives great credit to Ringling College’s Center for Career Services. “A huge part of what Ringling did for me was through Career Services,” John recalled. “When you look at the schools from which companies recruit,” he said, “Ringling’s Career Services is a big selling point.”
Karen de Los Santos and Jeff John have collaborated on projects at GM. John has also worked with several other Ringling alumni at GM. “The ice gets broken quickly because we have the Ringling tie,” he said.
“Ringling College alumni work in diverse industries,” said Dr. Larry R. Thompson, Ringling College of Art and Design president. “Soon they will become even more in-demand because all kinds of organizations, from businesses like General Motors to healthcare centers like Moffitt Cancer Center, will need creative thinkers and doers who can innovate and solve problems in new and different ways. I truly believe creativity is the most essential skill for success in the future.”
By Nicole Caron