On the Rise: Sid Attravanam
Manager of Tire and Vehicle Dynamics | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 28
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job was data and race engineer with a Trans-Am team based in Dallas, Texas, right after college. They ran race-prepared Chevrolet Camaros all over the U.S. I instrumented the vehicles and interacted with drivers about vehicle setup and strategy for each race. I had to make tire setup adjustments depending on what the driver liked and the weather at the track. I traveled with the team to a few races and test sessions all over the U.S.
What attracted you to the industry?
Since childhood I have wanted to do something in the automotive/tire industry. I remember watching the cartoon “Wacky Races” on TV and thinking working on cars looks fun! As I grew older, I noticed mobility and transportation are a common engineering challenge for people all over the world. People want to get to places faster, safer and in less expensive ways. I wanted to get involved in this to help that cause. In college, I was involved in the Formula SAE program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) where students design a formula-style race car and compete against other universities from all over the world. During my time on the team, I was involved in almost every step, including design, manufacturing, testing and presenting our design at the Formula SAE competition. It was during this experience that I was exposed to the technical side of tires and how complex they can be. Digging through tire data and using it to design, test and tune the race car set my desire to join the industry.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
The biggest challenge has been when I transitioned from engineer to manager of a newly formed team. While I was excited and honored to lead the group, I was also enrolled in a master’s degree program, working on completing my thesis, as well as working on engineering projects. Learning to balance the leadership responsibility with detailed engineering and master’s level thesis work was very challenging. Fortunately, I had a great deal of support from others which helped me through the transition.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Dr. Robert Woods, advisor at UTA; Claude Rouelle, owner at OptimumG; and Patrick Majors, engineering manager at Cooper, are three who’ve had the most impact in my life. All three have different styles and perspectives toward work and life. While I was working with them, I never quite realized how much of an impact they made. While I learned a great deal from my mentors, I’ve also been influenced by my co-ops and employees.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My biggest accomplishment thus far has been implementing new approaches at Cooper to understanding tire and vehicle performance. While a tire and vehicle have had thousands of hours of engineering dedicated to their design, the consumer often buys the product based on how it “feels” when driving. My team is working to better understand the subjective nature of tire and vehicle performance. On a broader note, I take great pride in inspiring the next generation of students in the automotive industry. I volunteer with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as a Formula SAE design judge and an industrial lecturer. I’ve traveled to universities all over the U.S. lecturing on tire/vehicle performance and team management. It’s very rewarding to be able to mentor young students and guide them as they’re starting their career in the industry.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?
While most people look at features, benefits and cost while buying a set of tires, a bulk of their purchase satisfaction comes down to how they “feel” when driving on those set of tires. Despite the technical specifications of a tire, it has to feel right for a customer to truly enjoy the product. My team of engineers focuses on understanding the seemingly subjective nature of driving. My typical workday is a mix of reviewing emails, technical work, mentoring younger team members and meeting with my team to brainstorm ideas.
What did you do before you entered the tire industry?
Before I joined the tire industry, I was in the motorsports industry. I did freelance race engineering for a TransAm team in Texas. I also spent some time working for a motorsports consulting company in Denver, Colo. They did engineering work for a variety of race teams from IndyCar, NASCAR, 24 hours of LeMans, Australian V8 Super Car, etc.
If a friend expressed an interest in joining the industry, what advice would you give them?
I would recommend having open mind and being prepared to get your hands dirty. Tires like to leave their mark on everything!
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I would like to be in a technical leadership role developing people and products that benefit society.
Aside from the basics like health insurance, what’s the most important perk/benefit an employer should offer?
While health insurance is a measurable and tangible benefit, there are some intangible benefits like flexible work hours, tea- building activities and continuous training programs that help the employee and team development in the long run.
What’s the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
The tire industry is facing disruptions both in the marketplace and in technology. There’s a growing percentage of consumers who are now purchasing tires through e-commerce, which is a huge shift from how the tire industry has operated for most of its existence. From the technology side, electric and autonomous vehicles are a huge disruption. With these vehicles, ride comfort and tire noise are coming to the forefront as areas of focus for manufacturers.
Tell us about your family.
My wife and I live in San Antonio, Texas. My wife is a middle school teacher.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
That we are lazy and entitled. Yes, we love our Uber, Instagram and insta-everything! But that also means there’s huge untapped potential in our generation. I think most of my generation is just looking to be inspired. That will be like lighting fire to gasoline.
Name a talent you wish you had.
Swimming! I never learned how to swim as a kid. I can now barely backstroke but need floaties for everything else.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Elon Musk and/or Kanye West. I’m sure they would both spark interesting conversations!
Do you live by a mantra or motto? If so, what is it?
Treat others the way you want to be treated. If we all practiced a little more compassion and err on the side of empathy, the world could just be a better place.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I love aviation/flying and have a paragliding license to fly in the U.S.
What’s your go-to song for a road trip playlist?
Anything by AC/DC.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
Spending time with my family, watching sports and working out.
Who’s your role model?
I don’t have one single role model. My parents have had a huge influence on me. Plus, there are several other people whom I look up to for what they do.
If we gave you $1,000 and one hour, how would you spend the money?
Go-karting with my friends/family.
What advice would you give your high school self?
I would tell myself to calm down and be patient. Life’s just starting!