My Wabash Story: Andy Blanco

  • Diversity & Inclusion
by Aidan Freeman | Mar 13, 2023

Have you ever considered what it would be like to start over in a new state? What about a new country? For Andy, that was no hypothetical but a reality he faced when his Wabash story began. Andy began his career in Cuba after graduating from university, where he began working as a teacher. Not long after his tenure, he was employed for a role in computer science. Andy had a relatively quaint life in Cuba—an education, a paying job—but something was missing: his mother who had recently left the country in search of new opportunities in the United States.

Andy’s mother had moved to California not long after his graduation, leaving Andy by himself. As one of the most important people in his life, he wanted to be there with his mother. He decided that he was going to make the transitional move to the United States, leaving his job and living situation behind. It took some time, but his new living situation arrived with relative ease, but making such a major change is no small feat. Andy needed to find work to help support his living situation. Fortunately, his mother was friends with the aunt of a Supreme (purchased by Wabash in 2017) employee who helped him land his first position.

"I liked the challenge. I had never used tools in my life," he said. "But little by little, I focused on what I wanted. I took time to learn about different departments, I went forward, and I grew."

Andy began his Wabash story as a general assembler in 2009, leaving for a few months only to return at a later date. He recounted the time he spent working on the scaffold, installing the roof and the wind deflector to name a few of his beginning responsibilities. During the early stages of his career, Andy mentioned that the environment of Supreme was much different than it is now as Wabash. He remembered it being rather quiet, even lonely. He remarked that the atmosphere made it difficult to learn the role, as "people wanted you to go to them and ask them how to do things rather than teach you."

"We had a different environment when I first started," said Andy. "There was somewhat of a privacy. No one ever wanted to share information. Now, it’s a lot more pleasant and open."

However, despite his coworker’s reluctance to speak, Andy saw opportunity in the silence. He recognized himself as different in the fact that he knew he wanted to make a change in the company. Regardless of the quiet environment around his coworkers, he looked in the direction of his supervisors (Jon Buchholz, Andy Serrato, Edgar Rodrigues and Jamar Williams) and continued to express interest in training new employees as he learned more. He didn’t want anyone to feel the same way he did when he first began.

"I believe everything’s better when everyone shares everything," he said. "When I started, I focused on knowledge. I didn’t feel good knowing I didn’t know something, so I made an effort to learn as much as I could."

While Andy maintained a positive outlook most of the time, he recalled some struggles early in his career. Some days were more difficult than others due to his limited knowledge of English and the tools at the time.

"[During those times] you have two options: you believe what the people say about you, or you don’t believe what the people say about you," he stated. "I never believed what people said about me, and I kept moving forward. Something beautiful that I found is that those employees who gave me a hard time are now some of my best friends today!"

Over the course of his early years, Andy carried the mindset that "if I know more, I am more valuable to this company." Each morning, he took time to see what positions were available, and if there was an opportunity to learn something new, he would jump on it immediately. Andy recalled a moment during one of his lunch breaks early on in his career where he was watching the welders work. As he was lost in his own thoughts, some of Andy’s supervisors came up to him to encourage him to learn more about the technical side of welding.

"I had already seen how valuable a welder can be for the company," he said. "Everything starts in my mind, and by then, I already made up my mind that I wanted to learn to weld. After practicing and practicing, someone saw my passion, and gave me the opportunity to be a welder."

Andy’s consistent growth was not without reward or recognition. As someone who had been making an effort to adhere to the Wabash principle of "Always Learn," his supervisor gave him the opportunity to work alongside the continuous improvement team in 2011, continuing for four years before transferring into a Production Coordinator in 2015. His knowledge of multiple departments was something that his peers saw as an exemplary feature to include to figure out where they were missing the mark.

"I’m very detail oriented," he stated. "I see what is wrong, and I like to fix it."

During his tenure working in continuous improvement, Andy’s plant manager at the time came up to him to discuss a problem they were facing. Andy remembered that when Supreme would hire new employees, "it was 10 each time." His plant manager told him that they could use a role in training to teach the new hires how to use the tools. A year later, Andy’s supervisor offered the position to him, and with it, an opportunity not only to grow in his career, but to build something from the ground up and really make it his own.

"He said to me, ‘We opened a new trainer position, and we would be so proud if you would be the pilot for it,’" he stated. "So, I said yes, and I asked what I needed. He told me, ‘We don’t know. It’s up to you to create it!’ Don’t ask me what I taught that first day, I couldn’t tell you…"

In July 2022, he officially transferred to the role of Operation Trainer. Andy was under the impression that the role would require a significant amount of tool training, recalling how he felt during his first few weeks with the company. Naturally, those recollected feelings helped him design the course to the best of the ability, using the limited information he had. He kept it simple: teach the employees the tools and send them to the floor. But as time went on, he discovered something unique.

"I found that the tools were the easy part. Everyone picked it up quickly," he said. "But then I realized: new hires come in with different morale. Now the first thing we teach is perspective—everything you have in your mind, how to be successful. The second thing we teach is what you have in your heart—your culture; and lastly, we teach the tools."

Even at the end of his training sessions now, he seeks to continue to grow, discovering new areas where he and his team can improve. He mentioned that he takes 15 minutes after every training to ask new hires what his team could do better to make the training a more valuable experience. Andy shared that other facilities across Wabash have adopted his style of training and have been able to visibly see the impact it makes on people. Andy shared with us a story of a recent interaction he had with a new hire. The employee came across as shy but scored well on the pre-work assessment. Andy pulled him aside and offered him some advice on how to grow in the company, talking about attitude and mentality. He shared that after three months, a coordinator position opened within the company, and the new hire was chosen. He came back to Andy to thank him, accrediting Andy's advice and training on his success today.

"That simple ‘thank you’ [that he said] made me feel like I’m doing something right, and I know I have to do it more," he said. "It gave me the power to keep going—that and my daughters, of course."

We asked Andy if he had any final pieces of advice for those looking to grow in their career:

“Create goals and follow up. Focus. Learn. All the time [in life], you have to do something before you can receive something. It’s not impossible. I am the perfect example of someone coming to this country with no communication at all, no knowledge of tools. It’s not about language. It’s not about personality. It’s not about communication. It’s about if you want it, and you think about it, you can do it. Today, I feel so proud because it was a challenge. It’s not the end, and I’m always seeking more.”

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