During his 33 years at Toyota, Daniel Rusch taught his fair share of young employee’s best practices for getting the job done. But Rusch’s favorite maintenance student by far is his daughter Julia, who followed in her father’s footsteps and now works in maintenance at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK).

“In the last few years, I’ve trained a lot of team members,” Rusch says. “But it’s really meant a lot when my daughter would ask me questions and I’d be able to help her out. It was really gratifying; my children being interested in what I do and wanting to learn from me.”

Rusch started working in assembly maintenance at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant in 1988. Before retiring this year, Rusch had the opportunity to share some of his hard-earned knowledge with his daughter, a graduate of the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program.

Julia Rusch graduated from college and joined the workforce in a different field before deciding that she wanted to enter manufacturing. When she expressed interest about working at Toyota like her dad, he recommended AMT, which allows technicians to transition into the field with a two-year degree and a year of hands-on experience.

“My dad has always been super supportive of me and my siblings and what we wanted to do,” she says. “He knows from experience how great of a job this can be, so after I got into the AMT program, I could tell he was excited that I was going to follow in his footsteps.”

Daniel and Julia Rusch

Automotive Runs in the Family

It’s not uncommon to find parent-child duos at Toyota. For Efren Gonzalez Sr., a machine operator at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Missouri (TMMMO), his son and four of his nephews work at the same plant.

While Efren Gonzalez Jr. watched his dad working at Toyota while growing up, he wasn’t immediately interested. He joined the Army right after high school and served for four and a half years. Back home, he began working in a restaurant.

“After I got out of the military, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Gonzalez Jr. says. “I started working for a restaurant through one of my friends and did that for about 10 years. Then in 2016, I started at the plant in a temporary role as a cleaner.”

With some encouragement from his father, Gonzalez Jr. began working directly for Toyota in 2018 as part of a pilot group on a new product line. Over the years, he moved up and was promoted to team leader in January. While Gonzalez and his father work at the same plant now, they are assigned to different shifts and will only occasionally see one another in the hallways. But two of his cousins are on the shift, and one even works on Gonzalez Jr.’s line.

“When we see each other at family stuff, we try to not talk about work all the time, but always when we first greet each other it’s like, ‘Hey, how’s it going? How’s work?’” he says. “It couldn’t feel more like family. Everybody’s great, the people I work with, and that makes such a difference.”

Efren Gonzalez Jr. and Efren Gonzalez Sr.

A Built-In Teacher

For Julia Rusch, the best part about following in her father’s footsteps was having someone to turn to for extra help while in school. Dan Rusch would call her into the garage for lessons, and if she didn’t understand a concept the way her professors taught it, she could ask her dad for a demonstration.

“Not many people understand what happens in maintenance unless you work the job,” she says. “Having him with all this experience has really helped me, even in small situations, because I would be able to ask him, ‘Hey, what would you do if you were in my shoes?’”

At first, Rusch was worried that his daughter would have a harder time in the shop, because when he was starting out, there were few women in the automotive industry. But he saw how much it meant to her, so he encouraged her to pursue the AMT program and study maintenance. He ultimately thought it would be a good fit for her.

“I thought she needed to start from scratch,” he says. “I wanted her to start in school and get the basics so she could have that knowledge and people would see her as a maintenance person right off the bat.”

Before her father retired, Rusch says they would make plans to eat lunch or take a break together because they worked on opposite sides of the plant.

“I’d be working on something and my dad would come in to get a part or whatever,” she says. “It was a nice pick me up just to see him and it always put a smile on my face. I honestly have really enjoyed going through this and working with my dad. I think it’s made our bond even closer because we have this in common.”

Keith & McKenzie Stepp

Keith Stepp, Engineering Manager, 17 years with Toyota (Including Variable)
McKenzie Stepp, Part-time TNGA Assy, 8 months

Keith started with Toyota in 2003 as a variable team member and was hired on as a full-time team member and assigned to the ZR start up project team at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia (TMMWV). At TMMWV, Keith served as a team leader, group leader, and assistant manager. In 2016, Keith made a lateral transfer to Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama (TMMAL) as the quality assistant manager and was promoted to his current position, as product engineering manager.

Inspired by her father's success, McKenzie graduated from high school in 2020 and joined Toyota Alabama as a part-time Variable Workforce team member. In June of 2021, McKenzie transitioned to be a full-time team member at TMMAL. McKenzie enjoys speaking with girls about careers in manufacturing and is an advocate for women in manufacturing.

Boris Navarro Rodriguez, Paula (Rodriguez) Everly & Mayeli Diaz-Duran

Boris Navarro Rodriguez, East Assembly Team Member, 2 years, 5 months with Toyota
Paula (Rodriguez) Everly, East Paint Skilled Team Member, 2 years with Toyota, Graduate of AMT program
Mayeli Diaz-Duran, West Plant TR1.5, 1 year, 10 months

Boris Navarro Rodriguez moved his family to the United States from Venezuela in 2015. Soon after arriving in Indiana, Boris started his career at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI) as a track team member and is now a full-time team member in assembly producing the awarding winning, all-hybrid Toyota Sienna.

His daughter, Paula Everly, who was in high school at the time her dad started at TMMI, enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program through Vincennes University working part-time at TMMI as part of her training. Paula is now a full-time skilled team member at Toyota in the paint shop since her graduation from the AMT program in June of 2019.

Seeing the success of her (step) father and sister, Mayeli Diaz-Duran also joined the team at TMMI and works in the west plant assembling the Toyota Highlander.

Jim & Claudia Rough

Jim Rough, Analyst, Site Support Services, 15 years, 1 month
Claudia Rough, AMT Student, 1 year

Toyota has been in San Antonio, Texas for 18 years and we are now seeing a ripple effect of children working with their parents.

Jim Rough has been with the company for more than 15 years and his daughter, Claudia, is currently a first-year student of the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program; our two-year apprenticeship-style program.

While you can typically catch Jim behind a lens these days, serving as an analyst in Site Support Services, he didn’t initially start his career at TMMTX in this role. Jim began his career at Toyota as a production team member in the Assembly Kaizen area. Recognizing his many talents, it was discovered that Jim had videography experience prior to working at Toyota. His creative skills and talent have been instrumental in supporting communication to TMMTX employees.

Jim is extremely proud of his daughter, Claudia, who is currently working in the Plastics department. She wasn’t initially sure what she wanted to do after high school and went off to begin her studies in dental hygiene. While trying to decide if the dental field was her calling, she inquired about opportunities at Toyota. Jim shared the AMT program with Claudia, which piqued her interest and led her to TMMTX.

Originally published June 17, 2021

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