Jim McCaslin '74, of Harley Davidson, at Kettering

Apr 22, 2004

McCaslin talked to a standing room only crowd of students, faculty and staff about his career experience working for such international companies as Chrysler and Harley.

Jim McCaslin '74, president and COO of Harley Davison Motor Co., along with alums Eilene Jarosz '84 and Earl Werner '68, both of Harley, visited campus April 20. McCaslin presented a talk to a standing room only crowd in McKinnon Theatre comprised of students, faculty and staff about his career experience working for such international companies as Chrysler. During his talk, he advised students not to be afraid to take risks and suggested that they can learn a wealth of information from the mistakes they will make. "You should keep a journal of your experiences during your career and especially of your screw ups, because it's through our mistakes that we learn the most," he explained. He also described the following 10 key things students can do during their career that will help them become successful professionals:

Tell the truth about issues in engineering, production and business, and tell it early in the process to your supervisor.

Be accessible and visible-walk the plant floor and implement an open door policy for employees to talk with you. This includes listening to people and verifying what you are told by direct reports.

Don't be afraid to say I don't know, I need help, I was wrong and I apologize.

Your boss may not always be right, but they are still the boss.

Try an idea out first before implementing it. You will have perhaps some 40 supervisors during your career, thus trying it out first insures that you do not miss your budget and deadlines.

Realize that you are either getting better as a professional or worse. Understand that nothing stays the same in business and industry.

Write everything down and follow it up.

What is, is. Understand that you can only change what you can accept and can't change what you can't accept. More importantly, do not whine about what you cannot change and if you cannot accept it, leave. 

Keep in mind the philosophy of mutual benefit-your interests and those of your stakeholders.

Smile and have fun. You will work in your field for some 40 years, so smile and have fun.

McCaslin also fielded several questions from students, faculty and staff, which revealed that the president and COO drives a Harley Davidson Heritage, one of the classics of the company's motorcycle stable. He also said that the company expects to produce more than 315,000 bikes in 2004 and has a goal of 400,000 by 2007. But this requires the company to grow the demand, and with almost $1.2 billion in revenues reported in the first quarter of 2004, the company is well on the way to establishing greater and greater demand for its products. 

Written by Gary J. Erwin