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How I scored my job in the global auto industry

An open mind and new connections led former UIndy soccer player back to Bavaria

By David Kurz as told to Monica Miller

David Kurz, junior sales engineer, in front of one of Faurecia's product lines, a clean exhaust system for automobiles. Photo: David Kurz

During high school, I left my home in Rosenheim, Germany, to spend three weeks as an international exchange student in Greendale, Wisconsin. It was my first taste, literally and figuratively, of the American lifestyle, pizza and all. I fell in love with America and set my sights on returning for college.

Name: David Kurz
Job: Junior sales engineer at Faurecia in Augsburg, Germany
School: University of Indianapolis — Bachelor’s degree in sports management; minor in business and Franco/Germanic studies, 2018
Sport: Men’s soccer

My athletic abilities and strong high school academic performance at Finsterwalder Gymnasium-Rosenheim in Bavaria helped me in securing an athletics scholarship and roster spot on the UIndy men’s soccer team in Indianapolis.

I am open-minded and don’t mind talking to strangers. During my sophomore year, I got to know the owner of Indy Eleven, Indianapolis’ professional soccer team, and this connection led to my international marketing internship with the team. Along with game-day responsibilities, I assisted with marketing and outreach efforts to build the team’s fan base from among the city’s international communities. The opportunity to work in sports management was great, but I wanted to experience something else.

Through a random conversation, I met a fellow German in downtown Indianapolis who shared my love for soccer, among other things. He worked for Faurecia, an international automotive parts manufacturer, at the company’s facility in Columbus, Indiana, located 45 miles south of UIndy. At one point, I felt comfortable in asking about internship possibilities at his company.  He said he’d check into it and get back to me.

David Kurz, a defenseman competing for the Greyhounds at UIndy's Key Stadium. Photo: University of Indianapolis athletics

That one conversation resulted in my five-month internship during the last semester of my senior year, during which I served as sales program coordinator for European customers at Faurecia’s customer business unit.

My hiring manager said it was risky to hire me because my academic major didn’t match the job requirements. He said the company typically employs people with similar backgrounds, and when you ask project-related questions to the same kinds of people, you get the same answers. Bringing the energy of an athlete to his team was an intentional decision he made to bring new perspectives to Faurecia’s workplace.

Being fluent in German, English and French languages helped me to conduct international conference calls with customers in Europe such as Volkswagen, Audi and BMW. I also led request-for-quotation meetings where suppliers were invited to bid on our products and services. Through it all, I gained an appreciation for the automotive industry and became passionate about the role Faurecia plays in this ever-changing, technology-driven global industry.

With my college graduation just weeks away, Faurecia offered me a full-time position at its facility in Augsburg, Germany. But after living in America for four years, I wasn’t sure about going back home right away. I sought advice from select upper management in the Columbus facility, who shared that if presented a career opportunity like that when they were my age, they would have quickly taken it. Hearing that from people in influential positions, and getting advice from my soccer coach and parents, made my decision quite easy.

Faurecia, whose headquarters is in Paris, has 300 sites in 35 countries and 109,000 employees worldwide. I work in the customer business unit based in Augsburg and serve as a conduit between the technical and non-technical aspects of our global business. In determining production costs for Faurecia’s automobile parts, which include seating, interiors and clean exhaust systems, I’m the middleman between car manufacturers such as BMW and our engineers, mechanical design engineers and others. There’s a lot of negotiations, customer relations and follow up.

Most of my day-to-day responsibilities involve working with broad and diverse project teams. It’s important to be effective at communicating with people from different backgrounds — a skill I used often as a student-athlete. Being an athlete gives you all the basics of what you need in the workplace:  being disciplined, being on time and being able to work with a variety of people toward a common goal.

During my first three years of college, I loaded up on academic credit hours so that my final semester would accommodate my shifting focus toward a professional career. With an eye on life after college sports, I took advantage of campus offerings such as attending nonmandatory presentations by industry experts. I was curious and used my high-profile platform as an athlete to network with successful professionals, often meeting up for coffee or lunch.  

I was extremely focused on starting my career in America. But one never really knows what’s going to happen. Augsburg is a lovely city to live and work in. Looking back, I made the right decision.