Building a Culture of Future-Forward Innovation

Steve Downing - Chief Executive Officer of Gentex

Love the episode? Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform!


Today's features. Tomorrow's technology. Gentex Corporation is built on a culture of innovation, developing cutting-edge technologies for automotive, aerospace and commercial fire protection industries.

In this episode, we're talking with Gentex President and CEO Steve Downing about what it takes to build a culture of innovation, and the kinds of career opportunities in a technology company.

3 Big Takeaways from this episode:

  1. Tier 1 & 2 suppliers are leading innovation: You may hear news from the OEMs and biggest brands about their latest tech, but it's the Tier 1 and 2 suppliers who are doing some of the most incredible R&D today. (Listen for a preview of 4 new technologies Gentex is developing for automotive and aerospace markets.)
  2. Give your employees the resources to be creative: Gentex systematically invests in employee-led innovation. When you enable your employees to unleash their creativity, they'll come up with amazing products and manufacturing solutions that benefits the entire organization.
  3. Career options in technology companies are endless: From engineers of every specialty, to automation technicians and ERP specialists, there is no better time to pursue a career in this industry.

Show Notes

How to Consistently Innovate

The key to innovation is focusing on your customer's problem and developing a unique approach to solving that problem. Better yet, offer a solution that you can ideate, manufacture and complete in-house for your customer. As a Tier 1 automotive supplier, Gentex has developed a strong push-pull relationship with OEMs built on trust. This enables them to come up with the best, most creative solutions.

Here are four new technologies being developed and manufactured at Gentex:

  1. Digital vision - FDM (full display mirror)
  2. Futuristic sensing systems
  3. Core Dimming Technology - aerospace market
  4. Driver and cabin monitoring system

The Future of Self-Driving Car Technology

According to Steve Downing, when looking at the evolution of car technology, it's important to ask: what is a car today, what will it be tomorrow, and what are the key enablers of that evolution? For Gentex, those enablers lie in the onboard technology, especially for ride-sharing vehicles of the future. We discuss tech for identification, safety, personal property monitoring, and vehicle condition monitoring for riders.

Building a Culture of Long-Term Innovation

As a publicly-traded company, Gentex is focused on long-term innovation and sustainability. The company invests resources in their employees to give them the space to creatively come up with new products and technologies that Gentex can take to market. These employees also come up with new and better processes for manufacturing those products.

The result of these investments? A company where employees feel free to unleash their creativity, where great new products are brought to market, and where the manufacturing process is as efficient as possible.

Partnering with Education

To round out our conversation, we discuss how Gentex has partnered with education to provide a pipeline of students who can pursue a career at Gentex.

A partnership with Grand Rapids Community College has allowed Gentex to have input on programs and curriculum, giving employees access to custom curriculum specific to the needs of the organization.

We also discuss the unique Production Support Engineer Program. This gives graduating engineers a chance to work on the facility floor, get to know all the departments and how the business works, and practice managing people.

More Resources

Gentex website:

Collegiate opportunities at Gentex:

Like this episode & want to hear more like it?

What our listeners are saying

I needed this podcast back when I was in High School!

Such great content that deserves more attention at all level of education. I wish I heard some of these episodes when I was navigating my own career path. Incredible guests, with incredible messages to share. Keep up the great work!


I find Matt's approach to be very compelling. He brings both perspectives, industry AND education. He doesn't hold back on what he thinks is important...

Inspiring topics featuring inspiring leaders

I’ve listened to most of your weekly podcasts and enjoy listening to the stories and conversations that feature business and education leaders from Wisconsin. Kudos to you for creating a platform that presents ideas and success stories that are important to Career and Technical Education teachers and leaders.

Best Career and TechEd Podcast

There are a lot of education podcasts out there. This is the only one that really focuses on bringing together voices from inside AND outside education and focuses specifically on STEM and Career/Tech Ed. This is a great podcast for anyone in education and also for anyone who employs STEM or skilled-trades talent in their workforce.

The pulse of Industry 4.0

This podcast has its fingers on the pulse of Industry 4.0, and Matt K. is a phenomenal guide, traversing the complexities of manufacturing and education in one forum. A+ work all around!

New and Exciting Content With Every Episode

I really enjoy listening to this podcast when I'm driving or have a free moment. Each episode brings a new guest with a fresh and exciting perspective of both education and the workforce!

Become a Subscriber

Subscribe & leave a review on your favorite podcast platform

Scroll to Top