Honored alumnus encourages students to be passionate, persistent, and to push toward their dreams

On Thursday, October 14, Clay Dean, director of General Motors Global Advanced Design organization, gave the Ira A. Fulton College’s honored alumnus lecture entitled “Things I wish I knew when I left BYU,” giving students a list of things to know now and in the future.

Dean began by asking “Are you aware?” He talked about how important it is to be aware of what is going on around you.

“I can suggest the most successful people in whatever industry it is are those who can stop, breathe, slow down a moment and pay attention to what’s going on around them,” he said. “It’s a key attribute you need to develop in your careers.”

He continued by talking about the importance of passion and how it is something that must be nurtured in order to be successful. He shared how his father would take him to the launches of new cars as a young boy and how his mother got him Hot Wheels to play with, which nurtured his passion for cars. That eventually developed into his career designing concept cars at GM.

Creating your own destiny was Dean’s next point. During his time as a student at BYU, there was no major for designing cars, so he talked with professors from both the art and engineering colleges, and searched until he found where he needed to be. He worked with professors and peers to get a program started and built a relationship between General Motors and BYU, which later led to him getting his job at GM. He took control of his destiny and went where he wanted to go, which is what he encouraged students to do.

In order to create your own destiny, you must be persistent he explained. Fighting for what you want and not taking no for an answer is more possible when you let your dreams guide you, he said. His dream was to work in the Corvette studios, so he was persistent and proved to his employers that that is where he should be and he worked in that studio for years before moving on to other projects.

He mentioned the impact mentors can have and how storytelling is how you get things done and compel people with your ideas. He also emphasized the importance of communication, collaboration, and coordination.

“If there is one thing you need to learn to do aggressively is communicate,” he said. “One weakness in humanity today is that we don’t communicate well.”

He explained that collaboration is how great ideas become fantastic ideas and how coordination is how those fantastic ideas get executed.

He went on to talk about how relationships can lead to team work, how students should be seizing every opportunity possible and how vital it is to have fun doing what you’re doing. He also touched on keeping priorities straight, creating a map of what you want to do, disrupting yourself, keeping up endurance, and how you must find joy in the journey, not just the destination.

To end, he encouraged students to lend a hand to others.

“It’s our job to reach out and help other people,” he said. “It’s one of the things we need to do here. It’s one of the missions of who we are.”

Clay Dean is the director of General Motors Global Advanced Design organization. In this capacity, he has the responsibility for forward-looking advanced design strategies and vehicle concepts, and for mentoring and seeking out innovative product visions, mobility services & new emerging technology opportunities at GM’s Advanced Design Studio.  A component of that work was leading the strategic creative vision for several of GM’s concept cars.

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