My Wabash Story: Chris Huff

  • Diversity & Inclusion
by Aidan Freeman | Jan 26, 2023

Getting started in a new city can be a challenge for anyone, and Chris Huff’s story is a testament to that statement. Chris began his Wabash story in 2011. As an out-of-towner in the city for only two years, he didn’t have many network connections to land his first opportunity in the manufacturing industry. Despite a desire to work for Supreme (purchased by Wabash in 2017), he struggled to get a foot in the door. Chris began working at a tractor supply company after many unsuccessful attempts to land a position with Supreme. He worked his way up to assistant manager of the supply store over the course of a year and a half. One evening, he was working a "hectic shift" with only a cashier and himself to carry out the responsibilities. He remarked that he had "a customer waiting on him outside for 15 minutes" while he tried to balance the dozens of phone orders he was receiving. After rushing outside to assist the customer, he noticed the customer was wearing a Supreme company shirt. The customer turned out to be a Supreme Cleburne plant manager. He and Chris had a great conversation, with Chris mentioning that he had an interest in the company and would love the chance to work there.

"He was kind enough to give me his number and told me to call him," he said. "Essentially, I was lucky that I was exactly what they were looking for. He told me to fill out an application online, then [the Cleburne hiring manager] interviewed and hired me.”

In 2013, Chris was hired on as a general assembler under his supervisor, Todd Allen. Starting from the basics, he learned from others around him for the first few months, soaking in knowledge from fellow employees as he needed it. He remembered the atmosphere and the culture as somewhat reserved, describing it as a "tribal knowledge" environment, where many of the employees helped to contribute to preparing him for his general assembler role. They supported one another, sharing general knowledge of the job, and teaching each other the basics of the position.

“We all kind of learned from each other," he stated.

Chris’s position had him working on specialty armored suburban vehicles, learning the ins-and-outs of assembly: building the vehicles, converting suburban vehicles into armored vehicles, etc. Chris continued to show up day after day and displayed an intense and passionate interest in the manufacturing work he was doing. His supervisor had taken notice, and he was selected for a position installing secondary air conditioners for the specialty vehicles. Upon gaining his new responsibilities, Chris recalled the opportunities that opened, the new processes that unfolded, and increase in chances to learn something new. Prior to landing his current position, Chris worked in a series of different roles, bouncing around and gleaning as much industry insight as he could.

"I like to find problems and solve them. I like to learn new things," he said. "Every single chance I got to go work in a new area, I would immediately apply for it."

During Chris’ path of growth and professional development, he continued to apply for coordinator positions within the company. He remarked that he underwent "four or five interviews," during which he was informed that he wasn’t quite ready yet. However, many of his peers encouraged him that he was on the right path and to just keep learning as much as he could— a deeply-valued and core Wabash principle. In 2016, Chris landed his first coordinator position in the Door Build department, where he oversaw the assembly of side and back doors. Although he is grateful to be where he is now, he remembered moments in his journey when he felt distraught and frustrated.

"There were times where I was really discouraged after a lot of rejections," he said, "but when I finally stepped into the [coordinator] position, I immediately felt validated. I knew what to do. I knew all the right steps to take. I don’t think I could’ve gotten here without the help of those people telling me to stay the course."

Chris remarked that he was grateful to have his Wabash peers encourage him to keep learning and growing and to be reassured that he was moving in the right direction. As he continued to grow and develop his skillset, the Cleburne general manager came to him to encourage him to go back to school to prepare him for a supervisor role in the industry. Through Wabash’s Accelerator program, Chris has been able to continue his educational path to finish his Associate Degree in Business at community college.

Today, Chris works as a production coordinator, where DuraPlate® panels are shipped in from Indiana and assembled to make full length side and front walls. Chris’ leadership role has him carrying the same mentality that his peers brought to him: a desire to help prepare others for the future.

"The thing that I love the most about the position that I’m in right now is being able to build people up and build other leaders," he stated. "I like being able to influence other people’s growth and success."

We asked Chris if he had any final pieces of advice for those looking to get started in their career:

"My first piece of advice is not to be afraid to network or seek resources outside of your immediate group. We have the type of teams that always try to push each other forward. We have an open-door policy here at Wabash. The kind of culture that we have now is that everyone’s trying to help each other, but if you never step outside of your comfort zone, you’re never going to grow."


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