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Jonathan Carender combines business and engineering to bring contracts to Michigan

Courtesy photo. Jonathan Carender, business development manager at TKS, with his wife, Laura (Schultz) Carender.

By Crystal Hayduk

[This story is part of the Willard H. Johnson Scholarship recipient series. Related story here:]

Jonathan Carender has traveled internationally for the primary goal of bringing work opportunities to Southeast Michigan. He’s a business development manager for TKS Industrial, the North American division of Taikisha with headquarters in Troy.

Jonathan is the son of Neil and Wendy Carender. His mother, Wendy, served the Chelsea area through her work as a physical therapist at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital. It was her employment that made Jonathan eligible for the Willard H. Johnson Scholarship, which he received in 2006 when he graduated from Dexter High School.

“I’m grateful to Mr. Johnson for setting up the scholarship fund that helped me—and many others—financially to attend college,” he said.

Jonathan credits his engineer father for drawing him toward engineering from a young age. He said his dad has been his greatest inspiration and motivator.

Jonathan Carender as a 2006 high school graduate.

Jonathan’s high school physics teacher also played a role in influencing his career choice. “I enjoyed my high school physics class taught by David Callaghan, so it’s fair to say that also pushed me toward engineering.”

It wasn’t until Jonathan studied at the University of Michigan (U-M) that he began to realize the career possibilities that exist with an engineering degree. He pursued engineering, but then discovered the option of a dual degree that combines engineering with business. “Most high school students wouldn’t say they want to go into a sales career, but with what I learned in college and gained in on-the-job experience, I drifted more into the business side of things,” he said. “I figured out the combination is a good niche for me. I earned a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary engineering. I earned a minor in physics, as well, because the two topics are related and I was interested in physics beyond engineering.”

Fresh out of the university in 2010, on the heels of the Great Recession, Jonathan faced the toughest job market in a generation. Like many job seekers that year, he said it took some time to determine his direction, but in 2011, he accepted his first engineering position with the automotive supplier Mubea, an international, family-owned business.   

In June, 2014, Jonathan accepted his current job at TKS, leading a team in charge of bringing business into company. TKS specializes in providing HVAC and paint finishing systems for industry, including Fortune 500 manufacturers.

“We talk to clients, write proposals, and bid on the work,” he said. “In our company, all of the sales people are also engineers. Because you have to talk to and sell to the people who are making the decisions, it really helps to have engineers talking to other engineers.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Jonathan’s work “a fair amount, but not in a bad way—it’s just a very different way of conducting business,” he said.

Before the pandemic, he worked in the office and traveled around the country and the world to visit customers. “I’ve been to China, Japan, Canada, and Mexico, but obviously with [COVID-19], we don’t do any of that travel right now.”

Although everyone worked from home during March and April, employees have now returned on a split schedule, working two days in the office and three days at home each week. All travel has been canceled and meetings take place virtually.

Jonathan and his wife, Laura, live in Royal Oak. He and Laura (whose last name was Schultz before their marriage) dated off and on when they were in high school. “We went our separate ways after graduation,” said Jonathan. “She went to Michigan State University and I went to Michigan. We stayed in touch a little bit, but didn’t hang out or anything during those years. Then after college, we happened to meet up again. It was a little bit of serendipity, I guess. We got back together and have been married for six years.”

In his spare time, Jonathan enjoys playing ice hockey. He competed at the varsity level when he was in high school, and he thinks it’s still a great way to get exercise.

Jonathan encourages young people who are uncertain about or still considering a college major to give STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) a good look. “These majors keep your options open for a wide variety of opportunities and careers after college,” he said. “I majored in engineering and now I’m more on the business side. But I even have a couple of friends with undergraduate degrees in engineering who went on to become doctors.”

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