Wanna play cars?
As much as we all KNOW Hot Wheels and have PLAYED with Hot Wheels—when’s the last time any of us actually thought about what it takes to MAKE Hot Wheels—or make a living being the gearhead who oversees parts of that process?
We were all told “go to college” so we can “get a good job”, but how many people who told us that helped us connect the dots between college and “good job”? The non-gearhead may think the only car-related jobs are the most common car-related jobs—fixing them or selling them (typically at a dealership, of course). To them there may be no “good” car-related jobs.
It takes a gearhead to see those connections.
I’ll admit that even I, having spent nearly half my adult life eating, sleeping, and breathing cars, find myself surprised when I see some car-related jobs. It’s like, why didn’t I think of that?
The Gearhead Project believes if we can modify our machines, we can modify our lives. As simple as this concept is, we STILL run into people who don’t get it. None of us were born automotive experts. We had to seek out knowledge and learn the ropes; one step and project at a time.
We got where we are today because we learned more than just how to work on cars while we were learning to work on cars. School might have been boring, but not even the threat of losing our jobs kept some of us from doing our automotive homework during the day.
Work-life parallel (harmony) starts with thinking about why we enjoy the things we enjoy most about playing with cars—and exploring different ways of finding that automotive enjoyment. The better we can translate our gearhead skills into the language of business, the better our chances of turning our hobby (read: wayalife) into something that meaningfully pays the bills.
Check out this job opportunity from Mattel: Manager, Product Design (Hot Wheels, Entertainment Die Cast)
[ Note: I should be clear I have zero experience in the die cast industry and know sweet FA beyond what you see here. The following are my opinions, meant to get you thinking about how you might rethink your car-related skills and experiences to get more mileage out of them in your career. I actually found this job posting in my spam folder from a jobs board that doesn’t seem to know what “unsubscribe” means. ]
What are the key responsibilities of this role?
It sounds like this person would be leading a team of Hot Wheels designers; making sure they’re working on the right projects, ensuring things are always moving forward.
The first question I had was how many models does a Hot Wheels designer produce in a typical year? I had no idea—so I googled it—and I found this excellent, Petrolicious interview from 2017.
If this job actually sounds like something you’d really like to do, you might make the jump and read that interview before you continue. (Because it’s got Jun Imai, Senior Manager of the Hot Wheels Die Cast Design Team talking about pretty much the same thing I was going to say, here, and it goes to show that gearheads who really love what they do bring more to the table than the average bear.)
Go ahead. I’ll still be here when you get back.
What are the specific job duties?
I’m gonna hyper-generalize this and say it sounds like this person will be highly involved in making sure all the cool new models Hot Wheels assigns this gearhead’s team get done, done right, and on-schedule.
How much fun would it be spending your days surrounded by gearheads like us who are actually creating new Hot Wheels cars? I mean, can you imagine?
The thing you gotta remember is it’s not that you don’t have the skills they need, but rather you need proven ability in those skills. There’s more than one way to prove yourself, you know. It’s not just the paid gigs on your resume.
What are they looking for?
Can you connect the dots between the business language used in those job duties and your own skills and experiences as a gearhead?
Again with the over-simplification, if you like drawing cars, understand how they’re made (die casting, 3D printing, scale models), and know a thing or two about profit margins, you’re on the right path.
Look at the first item on the list above—”Seeking exceptional talent in: Design; Sense of Aesthetic / Market Appropriate Sensibility, specifically as relates to Automotive Design; Knowledge and Understanding of Entertainment and Pop Culture; Knowledge of current Toy, Vehicle & Lifestyle Trends; Knowledge of business as related to Marketing; Ability to translate competencies above into Innovative 3-D Products”.
Chances are, if you’ve read this far into an article about a job at Hot Wheels, you know a bit about automotive design, aesthetic, market sensibilities, entertainment and pop culture, etc. You might even know a thing or two vehicle and lifestyle trends, marketing, and 3D printing.
The question is—if you really want this kind of gig, how do you take those casual, basic understandings and turn them into exceptional?
What skills are required?
Not gonna lie. That first bullet is a tough one. If you’re not legit “the boss”, I’m not sure how you find yourself managing a senior designer, let alone a group of them, but just about everything else on that list is something—if you genuinely care about this scene—you could do on your own, for fun.
You might laugh at the thought of starting a blog about boy’s toy trends as related to design or pop culture, but there’s legit potential such a thing. (And it might even be a lot of fun!) A blog can be a place where you share your thoughts and opinions on your journey as you explore things you need to know on the way to where you want to go.
A blog could be a place to share your own vehicle sketches and designs (and how your skills have advanced over time). It’s a place where you can establish and refine your perspectives on entertainment and pop culture. And if you were so bold as to frame your blog as being your journey to a dream job in the die cast car industry, it shows problem-solving and strategic creative vision skills.
How’s that for decisive and energetic?
What about education?
Sometimes the degree is truly a requirement—but not everywhere. In fact, we’re starting to see bigger companies throw out the degree requirement, as they’re not as useful when everyone with a co-signer and pulse can get one online.
The proof is always in the pudding. The best leaders know this.
I’d be willing to bet the person who lands this opportunity at Mattel is going to be a longtime Hot Wheels fanatic; someone like Brad DeSantis from Auto Off Topic, with both an extensive collection of Hot Wheels and a genuine love for the industry. It could be YOU, for that matter! I dunno.
[ Note: If the person who lands/landed this gig sees this post, I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here today. Please get in touch? Thanks. ]
If you eat, sleep, and breathe cars and car culture, if you want to make a living doing something car-related that means something to you, if you’re looking for a calling more than a job, a work-life parallel approach to things can only help you on your way.
Reflect on why you enjoy the things you do. Explore different ways to apply those skills. You’ll discover new opportunities to level up. Take action when you find them. And document your journey. Build that body of work that shows how much you care about this stuff and how you’ve grown along the way.