Alumni who inspire: Kevin Fields
The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources the Alumni Who Inspire! Program recognizes alumni for their dedication to their professions, our college and West Virginia University.
Q&A Conversation with Kevin Fields
Photo by Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing
"We are very excited to recognize our distinguished alumnus Kevin Fields through our Alumni Who Inspire program," said Cerasela Zoica Dinu , associate dean for student, faculty and staff engagement and coordinator of the program. The program launched in Fall 2023 to recognize Statler College alumni who demonstrate Mountaineer values, and their achievements to inspire future generations of engineers and computer scientists.
Kevin Fields is the Vice President of Manufacturing Services at Hino Motor Manufacturing, WV. His personal career journey includes a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University, a Master of Science in strategic leadership and a Doctorate of Executive Leadership from the University of Charleston. Fields’ self-reflection and his learning experiences are inspiring and motivating.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Parkersburg, WV in a blue-collar middle-class family. My parents were the first family generation to graduate from high school and I was the first generation to attend and graduate from a university. Growing up my parents always valued education and fed my curiosity. I was always encouraged to try things, learn from them, and try again. Succeeding in something was not a matter of if but when. Perseverance and grit were my superpowers.
Q: Why did you choose the WVU Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources?
A: I had a high school counselor tell me I was not college material, and I should look into a trade school or the military after high school. Little did she know the challenge she laid before my feet. I was interested in Engineering and had limited money. I was fortunate that WVU had an excellent Engineering program at an affordable price. My parents encouraged me to reach for the stars and apply to WVU’s Engineering program. I was accepted and the adventure began.
Q: Were you involved in activities outside of the Statler College?
A: My freshman year I joined the WVU Swimming and Diving team. There were people from all over the world on the team and it was the first time I had the opportunity to meet and learn from others different from me. Unfortunately, I struggled with the demanding practice/meets schedule and my academic schedule. My grades were very poor, and I was put on probation by the college of engineering. I was on the verge of being kicked out of engineering and had low morale and self-esteem.
I was fortunate to connect with Dr. Emil Steinhardt who became a great mentor to me. He taught a class where we would work on solving real world problems for different industries. This helped me understand how to apply what I was learning. He would tell me he could feel my heart and see the fire in my eyes. If not for his support and encouragement I probably would not have graduated.
I tell everyone I made the Dean’s list two semesters when I was in college. My first semester was on the Dean’s probation list and my last semester was on the Dean’s honor list. It was a tough road in between. I believe my family honor, perseverance, and Dr. Steinhardt’s mentorship were the key ingredients.
Q: Tell us about your professional journey since graduating from the WVU Statler College.
A: After graduating from WVU, I went to work for American Electric Power (AEP) working in a fossil fuel power generation plant. While there I was able to work in many different disciplines of engineering (electrical, mechanical, civil, and chemical). AEP was a very strong engineering company and after a few years I learned that if I wanted to move up in the company on the Engineering side, I would have to obtain my Professional Engineering license. I had been out of school for over 3 years, and I never took the Engineer In Training (EIT) exam while in school and I had to start at the beginning. It took several months of studying and two attempts to pass the EIT exam. After I got my EIT certification and the necessary working years under a PE, it took over a year and two attempts to get my PE license. Later, I went on to obtain my PE license in the four states in which AEP operated at that time and became an Engineering Manager. My PE licenses are a great point of pride for me due to struggling academically as a student and the years of perseverance it took to obtain them.
After nine years with AEP, Toyota started building a new plant near my home. I was intrigued with the concept of lean manufacturing and interested in entering the automotive industry. I went to work for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia (TMMWV) as a Group Leader (front line supervisor) in a machining line.
For the last three years, I have been on a dispatch assignment from TMMWV to support Hino Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia (HMMWV). HMMWV is a medium-size duty-truck assembly plant. At HMMWV, I am the Vice President of Manufacturing Services. I oversee Safety, Environmental, Maintenance, Facilities, Production Engineering, Pilot team, Quality Engineering, Quality Control, Production Control and Parts Ordering. My wide range of experience enables me to lead such a large diverse group of departments. A key item I work with all departments is to not only do our job at the plant but how to collaborate with outside groups and the community to share our knowledge and learn from a different perspective. We must help grow the next generation of talent to join our teams.
In addition to my career path, I continued my education later in life and obtained my Masters and Doctorate degrees. I wanted to continue to learn and be a role model for others to always keep learning. I have utilized my additional education to help develop, mentor, and teach others. I have been an Adjunct Professor for the University of Charleston for the last three years teaching online in the evenings. I enjoy giving back and helping others achieve more than they thought they could.
Q: What are the 3 top tips to help future engineers be successful?
- To be a good Engineer one must become proficient in the 3 C’s.
Collaboration – It is important to get everyone involved for input and different perspectives. You must collect dots so you can connect dots.
Change – One must become comfortable with change and learn to adapt quickly.
Conflict – Conflict between plan versus actual. One must seek knowledge in failure and improve the plans with this knowledge.
To be successful one must focus on the 3 P’s.
Preparation – Always show up prepared. Learn as much as you can from everyone. Have contingency plans so you can adapt quickly. Turn your headlights on and look further down the road. Start with the end in mind. A goal without a plan and action is just a wish and hope is not a strategy. Remember, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” - Seneca
Perspective – Always look for the positive. Understand you represent more than just yourself! You represent your family, relatives, community, school, state, country, etc. “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz
Perseverance – Never give up. Mine the nuggets of knowledge from failure and get up and go again.
Be a lifelong learner. Always be curious and seek knowledge. You are
the only one who can define what success means to you. It is not a title, position,
or salary. Success is adding value to society and helping others. Happiness is
a choice not a destination.
Q: What advice to you have for our students?
A: My advice comes from the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi
- Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
- Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
- Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
- Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
- Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
The Statler College community is appreciative for Fields' time and willingness to share his journey. The wisdom imparted to our faculty, staff, and students will have a lasting impact on their futures.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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