Making it Real

These North American team members truly embody the Toyota Way

January 10, 2018
The Face of Toyota -- Team members, selected to represent Toyota's manufacturing and R&D facilities in North America at Akio Toyoda's New Year's Address Tuesday, gather with TMNA executives for a group photo in Plano.  

While Akio Toyoda might have taken center stage at the Dr Pepper Arena during his New Year’s address on Tuesday, several special guests were in the audience who deserve just as much attention.
 
In addition to global President’s Award winners — including Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky’s Jim Jordan — team members from our North American manufacturing plants, Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center and R&D came to Plano to represent their locations at the global event.

What makes them so special? Every day on the front lines, these team members bring the core values of the Toyota Way to life and make it real. Their dedication and commitment are commendable.
 
But, then again, they are not unique. Thousands of team members just like them come to work eager to do their jobs and make contributions to make ever-better products for the benefit of our many customers.
 
Please take a moment to read their stories. They are an inspiration to us all as we embark on what promises to be an exciting and adventure-filled 2018.
 
Happy New Year!

 
Name: Anthony Bowdry
Title: Group Leader
Job: Training and development
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi
Years with Toyota: 7
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
It feels great working for a company that not only values the importance of people, but also gives them the tools and resources to continually improve.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
In 2015, Mississippi Young Professionals (MsYP), a business partnering group, asked if I’d be willing to ring the bell for the Salvation Army at a local Wal-Mart. I was excited to volunteer, but didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a life-changing experience. It really warmed my heart to see people make donations, especially those who might not have had that much to give. I told everyone about my experience. And I joined MsYP and now serve on the board as the community lead.

 
Name: Jill Collins
Title: East Body Weld Team Member
Job: Main Body Frame Line
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana
Years with Toyota: 18
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
Awesome! I work every day in a safe and clean manufacturing environment. There are endless opportunities for advancement. And Toyota provides financial stability for me and my family with great benefits. When someone asks me where I work, I still beam with pride when I say “Toyota.”
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
I have to call out two moments. The first was when I was hired with no experience and the company trained me. Ever since, I’ve been part of a team that cares about me and takes care of me. I’ll also never forget 2008. We weren’t making any vehicles, so we were given the opportunity to help out with projects in the community, like painting and cleaning.  I was especially proud to give back to Gibson County, where I live.

 
Name: Miguel Soto
Title: Assembly Group Leader
Job: Trim 1 South
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas
Years with Toyota: 7
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I feel a great sense of pride to put on a uniform for a company I enjoy working for. When I drive to work, I know my day is going to be challenging but also very rewarding. I’ve grown so much over the years. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The sky is the limit with Toyota, and I’m all in.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
My understanding of continuous improvement really took hold during my time in Assembly Kaizen. My fellow team members and I were always challenging each other, bouncing ideas off each other and learning from one another. The creative juices were always flowing. And we all had the same goal: create better processes. I enjoyed it so much that it didn’t even feel like work.



Name: Charles Rudder
Title: Production Team Leader
Job: AR Upper Assembly
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama
Years with Toyota: 14
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work for this company. I’ve learned so much over the years, most importantly how to identify and solve the root causes of problems. It’s the key to achieving continuous improvement.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
Without a doubt it was my trip to Japan. I had the chance to see firsthand how our company began. And I truly felt the pride Toyota has for its people and its products.   

 
Name: Miguel Nevarez
Title: Quality Inspector
Job: Team Leader
Location: Toyota Auto Body California
Years with Toyota: 12
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I am proud to be a part of a company that is recognized for the quality and safety of its products. We work diligently to ensure our customers’ expectations are met and we take pride in it.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
There is no one moment. I appreciate the many opportunities I’ve had to collaborate with other team members and other North American manufacturing facilities on projects. It is awesome to come together and support one another as a team.



Name: Seth Graham
Title: Production Team Leader
Job: Ensuring safety, quality and production for Tundra and Sequoia engine heads
Location: Bodine Aluminum/Troy, Missouri
Years with Toyota: 18
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
Toyota is a good company that cares about its team members. I'm treated well and know that I am respected. If you don't have respect, you don't have anything.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
This might sound surprising, but it was the slowdown after the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Even though we weren’t making parts, the company assured us that it wasn’t going to lay us off. Instead, we focused on training and plant improvements. They didn’t throw us to the wind. And it made the plant better in the long run.
 


Name: Jo Cronin
Title: Production Team Member
Job: West Paint sealer line in the weld shop
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada
Years with Toyota: 14
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
So fulfilling. I’ve been fortunate to be at this plant for the last few major milestones. I was hired at the end of the Lexus expansion. I worked in North Paint before getting on the RAV4 pilot. I was also part of the EV/major model change pilot. I’ve been to Japan twice. It’s been a very interesting run and I look forward to seeing all the new changes to come.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
Probably when I got my nickname, Jo Mama. I was part of the original RAV4 pilot and looked after all the new hires for sealer in the West Plant. They started calling me that. And I’m still known as Jo Mama to this day. I’m also incredibly grateful that, through volunteer grants, the plant helps sponsor high school rodeos and local horseback riding clubs. It’s one of my passions. This year I hope to compete in the Ontario Extreme Cowboy Association, a new event for me.
 


Name: Joe Woodson
Title: Production Team Member
Job: Inspector
Location: Bodine Aluminum/Jackson, Tennessee
Years with Toyota: 11
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
When I tell someone I work for Toyota, they bow to the ground. It’s like I’m a superstar. The company is very well respected in the community, where we do so much to give back. I am very proud to be associated with Toyota.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
When I got my interview for the job in 2006, I was so excited I almost hyperventilated. I thought it was going to be good. But it’s turned out to be 100 times better. When I walk through the plant and inspect the machines, I’m just amazed that I work here. I tell people I’m a professional inspector, but not so professional that I can’t learn more.

 
Name: Sarabjit Sihota
Title: Painting and Final Inspection
Job: Production
Location: Canadian Autoparts Toyota
Years with Toyota: 19
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
Working at Toyota makes me feel happy. I have such amazing coworkers who respect me and treat me equally to them, even if they are all men. The management team also has great respect for the work that I do. It makes me want to work harder and always try to exceed my limits and try for the best results.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
That would have to be my first day on the job when I didn’t know anyone or what to do. Everyone was very friendly and asked if I needed help. And they didn’t get mad if I messed up. That’s when I knew Toyota was the place I wanted to work.



Name: Agustin Medina Sauceda
Title: Assembly Team Leader
Job: Supporting assembly team members during build and line improvements
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing de Baja California
Years with Toyota: 14
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I’ve always been a car fan. I was curious as a child about how cars worked and how they were built. So when I got the opportunity to a part of Toyota and learn about the auto industry, it was a dream come true for me.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
When I was promoted to team leader. That was my goal when I started. It gives me the opportunity to help my team and solve problems. I enjoy investigating, planning and learning from others. This position allows me to do all of that.



Name: Cassandra Dyk
Title: Engineering Manager, Powertrain Planning, Production Engineering 
Job: Unit production planning for North American projects
Location: PEMC, Georgetown, Kentucky
Years with Toyota: 19
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I feel very honored to work for this company in a job that challenges me every day. It is never boring.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time working at Toyota?
 
My first trip to Japan. It gave me a true appreciation for the level of commitment to engineering quality and global cost management that is exhibited at TMC every day.
 


Name: Heraldo Stefanon
Title: Senior Manager Hybrid Vehicle and Drivetrain Division
Job: Taking care of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle software development for North America
Location: R&D, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Years with Toyota: 24
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
Toyota has taught me a great deal and has helped me become the engineer and person I am today. Working for Toyota these past 24 years has had many ups and downs, like any other relationship. But overall, I believe our partnership has been positive and creative.
 
What’s your favorite memory or moment from your time working at Toyota?
 
I was lucky to be part of the unique team that helped re-shape the TTC Powertrain function in 2001. This was the first time TMC allowed tuning responsibility outside of Japan. From that point, all other powertrain tuning functions in NA were created.

 
Name: Faye Zaski
Title: Senior Manager
Job: Material Development
Location: R&D, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Years with Toyota: 15
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I feel proud to work for Toyota. I feel empowered to practice the Toyota Way daily, incorporating continuous improvement and respect for people. 
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
I was part of the team that established the cross-functional exterior paint chipping working group. We were the voice of the customer to promote a brand-new development of an improved chipping primer material.



Name: Katie O’Brien
Title: Senior Manager
Job: Purchasing Supplier Relations
Location: R&D, York, Michigan
Years with Toyota: 14
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I have always felt empowered to ask questions, challenge, and kaizen both myself and processes to further develop effectiveness and efficiencies. It’s a great feeling of empowerment and opportunity!
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
I had the opportunity to launch from the ground up the Toyota Motor Manufacturing On-Sight-Suppliers. It was an incredible experience to work with many outstanding Toyota and supplier team members along with seeing the hard work and just-in-time application come to fruition at launch.



Name: Jonathan Ortt
Title: Production Team Member
Job: Engine quality control, warranty
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia
Years with Toyota: 18
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I am very proud to be a Toyota team member. This company has given me a good steady standard of living for my family. And I am thankful for the many growth opportunities that have come my way over the years.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
Picking one highlight is a challenge. But I’d have to say it was being a member of the Quality Circle that got to go to Japan for the QCC Global Presentation in 2013. It was such a thrill to meet with other team members from around the world and share our ideas and experiences.
 

Name: Corey Sargent
Title: Senior Manager
Job: Body design, functional
Location: R&D, York, Michigan
Years with Toyota: 13
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
Proud. Toyota’s name is synonymous with quality, so it feels great to be a part of designing in the quality that customers and the industry recognize.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
Developing one of Toyota’s first panorama moonroofs. It was a strong collaboration with many different departments, divisions and suppliers that produced good results, considering all of the constraints that existed.

 
Name: Charles Ford
Title: Team Member
Job: GPS Trainer
Location: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky
Years with Toyota: 23
 
How does it feel working for Toyota?
 
I’m extremely blessed to work for Toyota. I love training new hires and current employees on Toyota’s systems, giving them the foundation to build a successful career at Toyota. Teaching CORE values that will directly impact the future of our success as a company is an honor and something that I don’t take lightly.
 
What’s your favorite moment from your time with Toyota?
 
Being nominated and selected as an Adult Black Achiever of the year for the YMCA’s Black Achievers. Having the opportunity to impact the lives of young men and women, giving them hope, motivation and encouragement was a blessing. Knowing I may have made a difference in one child’s life is something I will never forget. To work for a company that not only talks diversity but practices it is quite an honor.
 
 
 

 

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