Editor’s note: A new feature on our blog spotlights Local Motors employees so you can learn more about the people behind our innovations.
Gina O’Connell is the general manager of our Microfactory in Las Vegas and is the director of Local Motors Labs. Born and raised in New York, she always had an affinity for technology, and that has helped her embrace change at every turn during her career.
Computer science as a universal foreign language
While attending Marist college, Gina majored in Russian and computer science. It was there that she realized computers would change the business world in a profound way. At that time, computers were rarely used for business purposes, but computer science was emerging as an area of study with long-term prospects. As she excelled in computer science, doors opened in many places, but she decided to head to Wall St.
She worked in Manhattan at a Wall Street ratings agency that had no networked computers, meaning they weren’t able to communicate easily with each other. She was one of two people responsible for bringing the company into the 21st century via new computer technology. As the company expanded, it had a new position available in Wyoming. Gina took a chance on the opportunity and ventured west. While there, she got into real estate and pursued her interests to work at a resort located near Yellowstone National Park.
Then came the opportunity to live and work in Las Vegas. She had a friend who knew she had the skills and experience to administer point-of-sale (POS) operations for a large casino. After acing the interview, which she described to me as a thrilling process, she relocated to Las Vegas. The company was successful, but eventually transformed into a training company for the entertainment industry.
Betting big on Local Motors
Nearly three years ago, she came across a job listing for retail manager at our Las Vegas Microfactory that was published on Craigslist. The specific position and our company’s focus on vehicles blended her passions for cars and technology. This job was a big leap from her past experience, but she was ready for it. Gina said what stood out about Local Motors was its focus on the community.
“It was revolutionary to see how the company leverages the crowd,” she said. After putting in plenty of hustle and hard work, she was promoted to General Manager.
Gina saw an opportunity to make Local Motors a part of the larger Vegas community, most notably in the Vegas Tech Scene. Due to the size and scope of the hospitality industry in Vegas, there traditionally hasn’t been a strong push for Science Technology Education Math (STEM) education. As a result, the education system suffered, but in recent years it has rebounded to build new pathways for students to enter STEM fields.
“Now there are so many young people here who are amazing with engineering and technology,” Gina said with confidence. “I’d even hire them right away for Local Motors.”
She was appointed in Nevada to the Governor’s Manufacturing Council to award grants to schools and local communities. The council works to attract more manufacturing and high-tech jobs to the state, and to enable more people to be prepared to land great jobs. She helps connect the dots between the students of today and the industry needs of tomorrow.
Through Gina’s great leadership and participation, Local Motors is actively involved with FIRST Robotics, a global organization focused on helping young people get hands-on with science and technology. She also helped judge the Shell Fuel for Success competition, which included a meet and greet with NASCAR driver Joey Logano.
Looking ahead: Local Motors Labs
The latest initiative that Gina is heading up is the design and launch of Local Motors Labs, which brings our partners and community together to build amazing technologies. Not only will we make advanced tools and software within our Labs facilities available to the public, we‘ll focus our efforts around specific projects and themes. Since these Labs will be offered at all of our microfactories, you can get an idea of how powerful this can be for the co-creation community. You’ll be hearing much more from Local Motors in the months ahead about our Labs program.
“We want people to interact with our projects,” Gina said. “We want people to feel connected and have a sense of ownership with Local Motors, our values, and our ecosystem.”
In the long run, Gina said she’s excited about the idea of running events that can unite all locations together — an interesting take on having the community come together locally and abroad.
Advice for tomorrow’s employees
“Sometimes opportunity exists where you least expect it,” Gina said when I asked her to share her advice for future employees at Local Motors. “If you have an idea, present it, ask about it, and let people know about your skills.” Additionally, she explained that future employees should be open to newer ideas such as co-creation.