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Derek Suen

Manager: R&D/New Product Development
Dorman Products, Inc.
Photo de Derek Suen
Photo de Derek Suen
Sector
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

Derek Suen is the Manager of R&D/New Product Development for Dorman Products, Inc.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Ottawa, Ontario

I now live in: Toronto, Ontario

I completed my training/education at:

My education is as follows:

- Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), Wilfrid Laurier University – Part time 2017

- Select courses/training – Automotive Aftermarket, Georgian College - 2010

- Bachelors of Arts (Honors) - Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University – 2006 

What I do at work

The automotive aftermarket industry is involved in making and selling replacement parts, accessories, and equipment for automobiles.  As the Manager, New Product Development for my company, I split my time between managing my team and working with our customers directly on a day-to-day basis.

I like to talk with our end-users (licensed technicians and shop owners) to get feedback and get ideas for new products that we might develop and make available in the aftermarket. When you purchase a new car from the Original Equipment (OE) dealer, it comes with a warranty for a set period. When this time is up, it opens the door for companies like Dorman Products, the company I work for, to re-engineer and manufacture parts while improving the original design. An example could be that a heater hose that was originally made from plastic from the OE dealer is prone to breakage over time due extreme weather conditions. We might look to make it out of metal so that is stronger and guaranteed to last longer. 

My career path is

Reflecting in my career, I took many twists and turns. When I had graduated with my BA, I thought that working in finance was the only way to be ‘successful’. That couldn’t have been further from the truth! If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell that person that it’s completely OK to try something new and if it doesn’t work out or didn’t like it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You aren’t going to be good at everything you do, but you don’t know what’s out there unless you put yourself out there and just TRY something…anything! 

Growing up with immigrant parents, their perception of what success meant was limited to three professions: doctor, lawyer, or an accountant. This led me to a degree in economics. However, once I entered the workforce and got to understand the industry I was in, it opened up my eyes on the variety of jobs available in the aftermarket.  When I was first hired at Dorman Products, the role I had taken had never existed before. This presented many challenges at first. It also gave me many opportunities to pave my own way to ‘success’. This role gave me the ability to create a standard process that others’ follow and to provide guidance up, down and sideways in voicing customers’ wants/needs. Nine and a half years later, I’ve grown my role into an entire team across North America. I believe that if you surround yourself with smart and motivated people it will become contagious to you as well.

I am motivated by

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in many different roles. These range from supply-chain, finance, accounting, and product management. Looking back, I realize that the constant theme throughout my career was that I enjoyed working directly with customers while building meaningful relationships to drive value. Working with people across Canada and the US, I noticed that the needs of one customer might be completely different from another. This might be because of the vehicle mix in the region or simply the type of weather that the region gets over the course of a year. Regardless, every customer has his or her own, specific needs. This gives me the opportunity to apply new problem-solving skills and learn something new. The variety that my current role provides makes my job exciting every day.

I’ve traveled to almost to every province and state in Canada and the US as well as Mexico and internationally. Being able to influence a company to create a product that never existed before is an exciting and rewarding process. However, being able to create a product that addresses known quality issues at the OE level is personally even more rewarding.

How I affect people’s lives

My career matters because I am helping the aftermarket by creating new parts that did not exist before! One of the coolest parts of my job is that I am constantly working with extremely smart people. Many of them are entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for ways to maximize value as well. Sharing the mindset in being able to service the customer better, we are always looking for ways to provide solutions in new parts and service that can make the customer journey more enjoyable (and affordable).

Outside of work I

I love sports and physical activity. I’m involved in weight training, road biking, ultimate frisbee, and snowboarding.

My advice to others

Formal education is important, but it’s not everything. Education opens doors and provides a mindset of learning ‘how to learn’. It also gave me the option to be picky and try a variety different specialties as I had a baseline of knowledge once I earned my degree. However, attitude and passion is almost equally if not more important. You aren’t going to be as successful if you don’t care about what you do! Being engaged and inspired comes from your attitude and passion.

Also, there is truth to the statement that, ‘people work for people, not for companies’. As you enter the workforce, don’t forget you are also interviewing the company for what suits YOU best. I could not have achieved success without a supportive boss/mentor/friend. Great bosses will encourage, push, and elevate you to your full potential. They lead by example, but know when to let go and let you grow your own wings! Find a person who you connect with!

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Business & Economics
  • Industrial Arts
  • Math
  • Physical Education / Health
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Liked helping people
  • Played on a sports team
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Was really creative
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do

Partners

Automotive Industries Association logo

Let's Talk Science is proud to partner with Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada) to help shed light on the many interesting STEM related careers available in the automotive aftermarket industry. From the skilled trades to management positions, this industry offers exciting opportunities in a number of areas.

 AIA Canada is a national association representing the $21.6 billion automotive aftermarket industry comprising of companies that manufacture, distribute, and install automotive replacement parts, accessories, tools, and equipment. The industry currently employs up to 400,000 people from coast-to-coast.

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