As president of OU’s student chapter of the Society of Automotive Analysts, Finance major Joshua Yasoni is connecting Oakland students to the automotive industry, its news, technologies, issues and leaders. The SAA consists of automotive industry leaders, strategists and planners dedicated to learning about and sharing information on the latest trends, technologies and developments affecting the automotive industry.
The inauguration of SAA’s first student chapter took place at a recent SAA meeting at Meadow Brook Hall. It included a discussion of Oakland County’s connected infrastructure initiative and provided insights from professionals throughout the automotive industry, including Oakland County Connected Car Initiative Chairman Fred Nader, Ford Motor Company’s Futurist Sheryl Connelly, NA Continental AG’s Head of R&D Strategy and Intelligence David Agnew, and Deputy County Executive Matt Gibb.
Yasoni told the Oakland Post that the organization will be doing a lot of hands-on things, such as going to automotive conferences and the Detroit Auto Show as well. "We are focused on the industry now and in the future," he said.
“Oakland’s business school
, its faculty, alumni and the SAA are helping to prepare me to launch my career in the auto industry,” says Yasoni. “I never thought that I’d be so involved in the auto industry as a student at 21.”
It began when Yasoni quickly bonded with fellow business students who shared an interest in the automotive industry.
“We realized that not only did we like business, but cars as well, so we’d hang out together. Through these friendships, we’d make secondary connections with others in the industry,” he explains. “I’ve already met the North American CEO of Toyota.”
Soon after forming those friendships, he became the business manager for Oakland’s Formula SAE team. While engineering students build the race cars to compete and display, business students like Yasoni work behind the scenes to obtain funding, purchase materials, negotiate prices and keep the books, similar to the unsung heroes on a professional racing team.
The experience fueled his desire to be more involved in student organizations. Before becoming president of OU’s SAA chapter he served as a financial consultant for the Student Activities Funding Board and a member of the Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education (SAIFE), all the while working as a finance intern at Faurecia, the world’s sixth largest automotive supplier, in Auburn Hills, Mich.
“Josh has a lot of motivation, he’s organized and he’s very personable,” says Dr. Janell Townsend, associate professor of marketing at OU’s business school, who is serving as faculty adviser for the new group.
Yasoni considers Townsend one of the most influential professors in his OU career. She has arranged networking opportunities for Oakland business students with automotive professionals and high-level executives by snagging invitations to a variety of exclusive events for automotive professionals, including the Original Equipment Suppliers Association Annual Outlook Conference, preview days at the North American International Auto Show and the SAA 2014 Outlook Conference.
Often, the Oakland business students are the only college students in attendance.
“Dr. Townsend has a lot of auto industry connections, so we are able to network with all these auto executives at the vice president level or higher,” says Yasoni. “I’ve learned how to network and have met some of these CEOs multiple times. I’m comfortable introducing myself and asking questions.”
Townsend told the Oakland Post she hopes the organization will spark more interest in the auto industry within the student body.