My Wabash Story: Andric "Andy" Ingram

  • Diversity & Inclusion
by Aidan Freeman | Apr 19, 2023

Can you recall the first time you felt independent? Maybe it was taking road trip with your friends, traveling to another country to study abroad, or moving out on your own. For Andy Ingram, he recalls a feeling of independence when he took the plunge to set off on his own to get what he called his first “big boy job” working at Wabash. But for this small-town boy, becoming independent presented as much risk as it did reward.

Andy’s Wabash story began in 1994, working as a restaurant cook in Boswell, IN – a town that he describes as “so small, that if you blinked, you missed it.” With no college degree or idea of what he wanted to pursue for a career, he was determined to find a way to progress forward. Andy had family members who worked at Wabash who offered to help him get a job.

Andy remembered being surprised as the interviewer questioned his decision to join the manufacturing industry, asking him if he was positive that was what he wanted to do at 18 years old. Wabash hired Andy as a temporary general laborer on second shift for two months which allowed him to test the waters. As a young adult coming into a factory setting nearly 30 years ago, Andy mentioned it was a humbling experience, and nothing like it is today.

“Back then the factory was dark,” he explained, “and as soon as you walked into the place, it was already hot. You were sweating before you even did anything.”

During the early years of his experience, Andy recalled the environments and teams that he experienced coming into Wabash, remarking that he was standing among “veteran, seasoned individuals.” Before long, he was approached by his supervisor at the time, Tim Schroll, who informed Andy that he had heard nothing but good things from his fellow team members and would love to have him working full-time.

Once Andy was hired on full-time, he discovered that the environment really blossomed. It was much more supportive than he had initially thought. Although working among seasoned employees as a young adult could be intimidating, over the years Andy discovered that his department treated him as an equal, caring for his security and well-being.

“They liked to have fun,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have fun at your job, you’re not going to like it. A lot of people [at the time] withheld knowledge, because maybe they thought you’d replace them; [my team] didn’t act like that… I asked questions, they answered them, they trained me and showed me the right way. They taught me welding and it led me to where I am today.”

While the team environment was a major contributor to Andy’s growth, he also attributes his current-day teachings and coaching to his first supervisor. He mentioned that Tim “didn’t talk down to you” and “wanted everyone to do well.”

Even though he began his story at a young age, Andy believes he was fortunate to do so. It allowed him to “not only grow his career, but his life as well.” Starting out from second shift, he took a year-long tenure to work third shift, and finally onto the day shift to work in couplers.

Yet Andy’s journey didn’t come without trials along the way. He had his fair share of difficulties growing throughout his Wabash journey. While his newfound independence granted him the ability to live on his own and provide for himself, he was “getting carried away” and showing up late or missing shifts. He recalls a moment that almost led to the termination of his employment.

One evening, bad weather greeted him on his way to work. His vehicle went into a ditch on the side of the road, burying his truck in the snow and leaving him stranded. While he was physically okay, he knew that if he missed one more shift, he would be let go from his job.

“Fortunately, my stepdad and mom were staying the night at my place, and so I ran home [in the snow],” he said. “My stepdad managed to give me a ride to work, and I clocked in with a minute to spare. At that point I said to myself, get your life together. If I had told myself that sooner, who knows where I would be today?”

The event was an eye-opening experience for Andy and led him to pursue a different path of responsibility and establishing a better work-life balance that didn’t affect his career. In 2004, he was promoted to a 3rd shift welding coordinator, where he was responsible leading processes.

“These were six individuals just starting out who didn’t know what they were doing,” he said. “But that’s when I really started to become a teacher. I had coached youth sports for a few years by then, but it’s different than coaching adults… When you can teach people to do something well that they didn’t know how to do it at all, I think that says a lot.”

Being Andy’s first leadership role in Wabash, he took all the prior knowledge that he learned from his fellow employees and supervisors and molded it into the best teaching and coaching practices that worked for him. Andy shared that some of the employees he trained in those first few weeks are still with the company today.

Today, Andy remains in his role as a welding coordinator for the coupler department on 1st shift, simply because of the relationship he’s built with his coworkers. While his responsibilities are now less hands-on, he mentioned that he didn’t have any desire to leave due to a strong love of what he does and the people he works with.

“My coupler department is not just a work group,” said Andy. “I say it’s a family. Not many people leave couplers. Once they get here, they find it’s a pretty good place to work.”

Andy is also an avid volunteer within the Wabash community. He remarked that he’s proud to be a part of different service projects. Some of his favorites included his time spent at the Indiana Veterans Home fishing with veterans and helping to clean up and adjust headstones. Those two events were “a great honor for me to be involved with.”

In 2020, Andy received a Living Our Values Award from CEO Brent Yeagy, who called him to personally thank him for his contributions. Andy was nominated for the award for the way he supports his fellow employees, and lives out the core Wabash values in everything he does, setting an example for others to follow. To Andy, the Wabash values simply mean that “if you say something, you need to follow it up with your actions.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that many emotions in one phone call, but it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.

Andy is a firm believer in being open and authentic, and letting your employees and coworkers see who you really are.

“We never know what’s going on with others behind the scenes [outside of work],” he said. “If we send a message to someone, it may mean more to them than the 10 seconds it took us to send the message.”

As of this article, Andy has been with the company for almost 29 years and going strong, consistently learning something new every day. During his Wabash journey, he made the decision to return to college at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 2009. Andy also had opportunities in the past to grow as a leader through a two-year Wabash supervisor class, embracing Wabash’s Always Learn value.

“I wanted to show my children that if you want to do something, you can do it,” he said. “If an old man like me with a family and a full-time job can go back to college and get a degree, then you can too… If you have the initiative, and you want to learn something, [Wabash] will help you do it.”

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

“Don’t give up. We all have bad days, and too often someone has that bad day, and they have a couple of people who aren’t treating them right because of it. Start every day with a clean slate. You also must be willing to learn. You can’t come into [Wabash] thinking you know everything. Even at 29 years in, I’m still learning something new every day. You also must be willing to be taught. Take it in, ask questions – ask TOO many questions! Don’t be afraid to speak up. You can’t be silent and expect to get anywhere. But the biggest one to me is make sure you admit when you make a mistake. The only way that you’re going to grow at Wabash and outside of here is if you admit your mistakes, because we all make them. A lot of people come in and get in their comfort zone and never want to leave it. Be better than that and want more for yourself. I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone a lot over the years; I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

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