Chris Carey’s first and only post-grad work experience has been at Cox Automotive. Here, he shares how he found a career he loves at the company.
One of the most unsettling moments for any college student is realizing that a different major might have been a wiser decision.
That’s how Chris Carey felt while finishing up his bachelor’s in geographic information systems (GIS) in 2015.
“I love GIS, but there weren’t many places hiring and full-time jobs were very low paying,” he said. “It seemed that it would take a lot of time and a lot more education to get to any type of high-level paying job; and unfortunately, that’s not what I wanted.”
In the final months leading up to graduation, Chris decided to keep an open mind and participate in a career fair hosted at his college. There, he met the person who would become his first manager at Cox Automotive.
In the span of almost nine years at Cox, Chris has gone from learning the ropes of the automotive software industry to overseeing his own team as supervisor of technical customer care across Cox Automotive’s HomeNet Automotive and vAuto brands.
“I consider myself very lucky to this day,” Chris said. “I’m forever grateful that this company took a chance on me when I was a kid still in college with no experience, and has provided a really great life for my wife and I.”
Here, Chris talks about his career journey at Cox, his leadership style and his advice for those looking to get ahead in their own careers.
Flexibility and momentum from day one
When Chris had that fateful meeting with his future manager at a college career fair, he still had a semester left before graduation. But that didn’t prevent him from getting a job offer as a technical support representative at Cox.
He and his manager worked out a flexible schedule with reduced hours during his final semester and then ramped up to full-time hours after graduation. At the time, Chris thought it all sounded too good to be true.
“My then-manager and senior manager said, ‘We’ll bring you on full time and give you full benefits, and you can work three days a week so you can finish school; we’ll work with you,’” he recalled. “I really couldn't believe it.”
By the end of his first year at the company, he was promoted to a data quality analyst. And his career has only gained even more momentum since then: he made the jump into leadership, first as a team leader and now as a supervisor.
“When I finished school and hit the ground running full time, I really found my success,” he said. “They’ve rewarded me tremendously throughout my almost 10 years here, and that’s why I give 150% every day.”
Nowadays, Chris enjoys a different kind of flexibility with a fully remote setup. If you’re ever on a video call with him, you may even catch a glimpse of his two cats keeping him company in his home office.
“The work-life balance has been great,” he said. “When I take a lunch break, I can go for a walk around my neighborhood; or I can get chores done ahead of time or start dinner for my wife now that I don’t have a 45-minute commute every day.”
Journey into leadership
Chris didn’t have a lot of mentors to guide him in his career before he joined Cox, which is why he’s been passionate about helping others succeed in their own careers. His initiative to mentor new hires and step outside his role to support colleagues earned him a reputation among his peers and eventually set him on a path to leadership.
“I tried to take what I’ve learned through trials and tribulations and share that knowledge with the next group of people,” he said. “I think becoming a go-to guy has really gotten my name throughout the business and helped open doors to opportunities.”
His manager and director both encouraged Chris to throw his hat in the ring for a team lead role. He absolutely loved it, and it set him on a new trajectory as a people leader.
His secret to being a good and trustworthy leader? “I have a lead-from-the-front mentality: I won’t ask you to do anything that I, myself, wouldn’t do,” he said.
Chris’ career advice
The number one piece of advice Chris shares with new hires is to not be afraid to ask a lot of questions. The automotive industry involves a lot of proprietary tech and information, so you need to be able to learn on the job.
“There’s no book in the library that talks to you about automotive software, or anything like that,” he said. “So be very upfront and ask a lot of questions — if you don’t ask questions, that's when we become concerned for your knowledge base and your growth here.”
Chris also advises people looking to get ahead in their career to put themselves out there.
“You’re going to fail, you’re going to make mistakes, but we’re never going to scold you for them because you’re going to learn from them,” he said. “Get out of your comfort zone and stick your neck out there: maybe speak up in that meeting when it’s silent or offer to help even if it’s not your problem.”