GO CAPS Connected Gearheads Chris Kleinfeld and Westin Easley

From Biz 417 Magazine:

When SRC Heavy Duty’s Director of Engineering (now General Manager) Chris Kleinfeld started working with GO CAPS students, he connected with Westin Easley over a love of muscle cars and engineering. Two years later, their mentorship is still going strong.

Photo by Brandon Alms Westin Easley (left) and Chris Klienfeld (right)

Photo by Brandon AlmsWestin Easley (left) and Chris Klienfeld (right)

Biz 417How did you first connect through GO CAPS?
Chris Kleinfeld:  I was fortunate enough to be involved with the folks putting [the GO CAPS] curriculum together from the very beginning. We stayed close to it, and we tried to pull as many students as we could through the facility. Our second year of GO CAPS students, we brought Wes on through that program.
Westin Easley: Because I’m a car guy, I like horsepower and turbos on engines. The first thing I see when I walk through the door [when touring SRC] was the turbo department and you hear turbos going off in the background, and that’s kind of what hooked me.

BizNow that Wes has been with SRC for two years, how has your relationship changed?
CK: When he came on, I was much more hands-on and involved in the turbo engineering team. I had freshly stepped away from being the manager of that team, and I knew it intimately well, so to sit down and talk with someone young and try to teach them, I had a lot more time to do that. Now, I’m at a point where I have to make sure I’m building teams where there are people on there who are giving Wes the same attention that I would, who are willing to invest in him like I would be willing to.

BizThrough this mentorship, what have you learned from each other?
CK: It’s one reason that I love bringing in young students, and the GO CAPS program was so cool to get people fresh out of high school—it’s always good for me to ground myself back to how willing I was to learn. I was 17 when I stepped out of high school and went into a factory as a co-op engineer. It grounds me to that enthusiasm. Everything was new and cool, and I wanted to do everything and absorb it all. I get 20 years into my career, and it’s easy to lose track of that. Wes especially has helped re-ground me to some of that.

BizWhat makes a mentorship successful?
CK: Like any relationship, really clear and open communication. You can communicate, but is it effective? Understanding their best forms of communication, what they receive well, how they learn so that you can break things down and explain them to them.
WE: Really just being open, enthusiastic and driven to learn more. Also being a good learner: not critiquing yourself too much, always trying to do more and being a good listener.

BizIt’s such an important step to recognize that you’re still learning, so you can’t be too hard on yourself.
CK: That’s a mistake I think a lot of businesses make when they bring in GO CAPS students. They’re looking at the return that they’re going to get: “Well, I’m going to bring in a student, but what kind of work am I going to get out of them?” And I’m not even worried about that. I’m looking down the road at, “How can we invest in the student? How can we help grow them into the type of employee we might want three, four, five years from now?”
WE: They’ve definitely invested a lot into my future.

Danielle Kothe