“I can’t say there’s anything that I can’t do… just things that I haven’t done yet,” explains Richie Parker, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based engineer featured in this award-winning 2013 video from ESPN and SportsCenter. Parker designed racing and safety gear for the NASCAR racing team Hendrick Motorsports for 12 years before becoming a co-founder at Optimech Solutions.
He’s also a motivational speaker, sharing his experiences as someone who was born with no arms. From an article at Clemson.edu, his alma mater:
With his degree in hand Parker landed a 10-week internship at Hendrick Motorsports, the winningest organization in NASCAR with 12 championships to its credit.
He was totally green in the world of stock car racing, but as with everything else in his life he just needed that small crack in the door and he could take care of the rest. He threw himself into the work, designing parts on his laptop with his feet.
His first assignment was to design the scale model cars used in wind tunnel testing. He quickly transitioned to working on full-size chassis components and body components and steadily rose through the ranks of designers at the company.
“There are certain advantages to having a disability,” he said. “I’m used to having to do things 10 times, 20 times, 30 times. That’s an advantage in the workplace. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who are ready to quit after something doesn’t work the first time.”
The 10-week internship was extended to 12 weeks and, ultimately, 12 years. For his last two years he was a vehicle design group manager, leading as many as 17 other engineers.
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