Gary Parker’s Smokin’ Success
“People don't always get this lucky, right?” Gary Parker laughs as he describes the path to his 23-year career with Cummins Inc. The current Director of Electrified Engineering Programs earned his master’s degree at The Ohio State University in 1997 and immediately landed his dream job. More than two decades later, Parker works to connect the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and Cummins and give current students the same extracurricular experience that made his time at Ohio State so valuable.
When he entered Ohio State as an undergraduate, Parker knew he wanted to be an engineer. “Our family was an ‘If it’s broke, you go fix it’ family,” he says. “At very young age, that’s how I was brought up.” His grandfather worked with aircraft engines at General Electric, and he taught Parker how to think about repairs and troubleshooting. Parker also knew Cummins. His father was a diesel mechanic who kept buses with Cummins’ engines on the road, and as Parker began his Ohio State education, Cummins and Ohio State were beginning their research partnership.
Twenty-three years later, Parker is helping to further the connection between his employer and his alma mater. As a member of CAR’s External Advisory Board, Parker is able to keep his industry on the forefront of research. “CAR has done a fantastic job of listening to me,” says Parker. “They've done a great job of meeting project needs and ultimately growing relevant projects to help the knowledge of students and help them succeed at future jobs.”
When Parker started his first job at Cummins as a Heavy-Duty Applied Controls Engineer, he relied on the skills he learned at CAR to be successful. “Knowledge in the classroom is nice, and if it’s applied knowledge, even better– if it’s applied knowledge to a field that you carry passion about, that’s fantastic.” Parker saw the interaction between classwork and real-world application by engaging in research and competing on the dominant Smokin’ Buckeye motorsports team, both of which enriched his education. From writing MATLAB scripts to fulfill a course requirement and explore different suspensions for electric race vehicles, to collaborating on a design project that led to the first CAD models of land-speed streamliners, Parker worked to make his ideas into reality.
For Parker, Smokin’ Buckeye was more than an extension of the classroom. Competing with the motor sports team taught him to work under stress, make deadlines, solve problems, communicate, and lead effectively – skills that benefit his daily work. That’s why he believes in the importance of motor sports, and how he knows that students from CAR are well-equipped for their dream jobs. “No one probably ever feels like they’re fully ready for the jump from university to career,” Parker says. “But you’re about as prepared as you can get.”
Written by Georgia Drost, CAR Writing Intern