From UAB Student to Toy Engineer

By Caperton Gillett

0612_wendysAfter learning how to engineer fun at Birmingham's Summit Toys, UAB alumna Wendy Sudsinsunthorn has moved to Manhattan for a job in the Thomas & Friends division of toy giant Fisher-Price.

Wendy Sudsinsunthorn gets paid to play. The 2007 UAB School of Engineering alumna and native of Pell City, Alabama, has applied her creative and technical skills as an intern with Harley-Davidson and in a research and development job with Birmingham-based Summit Toys. Now she has moved to the big time—and the big city—with a position in the Thomas & Friends division of Fisher-Price toys in New York City, where she works with the design, marketing, and engineering groups to manage toy projects “from concept phase to first shipment.”

You’ve worked with Harleys. You’ve built toys. And now you’re living in New York and hanging out with Thomas the Tank Engine. Question: Awesome job, or awesomest job ever?

Awesomest. Job. Ever. I love New York City, and I love my job. I can honestly say I have my dream job!

How did you make the move from Summit Toys to Fisher-Price?

I had some toy experience under my belt, and I saw a posting for Fisher-Price and applied. I was hired to work on the Thomas team, so I’ve been working on Thomas & Friends since day one.

What’s the most challenging part of your job? What’s the most fun?

The challenging part—as with every manufacturing environment—is meeting deadlines and cost restraints. The most fun part is working with toys for a living.

How does the office environment differ between a more typical engineering job (like Harley-Davidson, for instance) and a toy company?

The corporate environment is different from a small-company environment, but I feel the small-company environment allowed me to have exposure to a lot of different aspects of business. The corporate environment has enabled me to see the benefits of cross-functional teams and checks and balances. But in all three companies—Harley-Davidson, Summit Toys, and Fisher-Price—it’s always fun, because we’re creating products that bring smiles to people’s faces.

You weren’t planning on studying engineering at all when you came to UAB. What do you think Freshman Wendy would say if you told her about your career progression over the past few years?

She would not have believed that this is where Future Wendy would be! I am proof that things happen for a reason and that with patience and hard work, you can fulfill your dream goals.

What did you learn at UAB that has helped you in your career?

UAB played a key role in my career path. I made some great connections—which helped me to get both the Harley-Davidson internship and the Summit Toys job—and the engineering faculty really nurtures the growth and development of their students’ careers. I learned how to work within a team environment and how to grasp different concepts and apply them to the job.

How can prospective engineering students (and anyone else) best position themselves to land a great job like yours?

First, get involved on campus within your discipline and/or with student organizations. Study hard to make good grades, but also diversify your resume with internships, community service, and organizations. And most important, get some experience! Internships are great and allow you to see what the job really entails. Companies these days want to see well-rounded candidates who can thrive in a real-world environment.

What do you see in your future?

I hope that I can continue doing what I love and continue striving for bigger goals. Lofty goals keep you on your toes, and stepping closer to those goals makes having a career much more fulfilling.

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