Students Test Drive the Tech Side of Auto Industry


Now that he’s got the No. 2 job at a growing tech company supporting U.S. auto dealers, Mike Cavanaugh has a simple message for the students at his alma mater: opportunity is calling.

Cavanaugh (’07, ’11) is executive vice president of MAXDigital, which provides cloud-based software and mobile applications to the automotive industry. Its products include FirstLook, an inventory management platform, MAX for Website, a vehicle value and content creator for dealer websites, and MAX Digital Showroom, a real-time sales tool for desktop and mobile.

Thanks to arrangements made by Cavanaugh, more than 70 students used Digital Showroom on their phones and tablets to become “instant product experts” at this year’s Northwood International Auto Show.

“It allowed my team to be very versatile, especially when team members needed to switch from a Corvette to a Traverse in a moment’s notice,” said Brooklyn Nelson, a Northwood junior and team captain for the show. “It was also a great confidence booster. It served as an aid for those who didn’t have a high level of knowledge about the Chevrolet lineup and definitely gave them confidence to get out and interact with show-goers all weekend.”

MAXDigital, based in Chicago, has about 100 employees and is adding more positions quickly. Part of Cavanaugh’s intent for the Auto Show was to broaden students’ vision of potential careers in the auto industry.

“Traditionally, the career opportunities are in original equipment manufacturers or dealerships, but there are all these cool things that they can go into, and if you want to go into tech and stay in the auto industry, there are many ways to go,” Cavanaugh said. “With the entrepreneurial mindset that Northwood instills in students, it can be a really good fit.”

The opportunities extend well beyond programmers and software engineers, Cavanaugh said.

“When you go into a new product line, you’ve got to scale up your ranks dramatically – on the account manager side, on the support side – there are so many opportunities that come with it,” he said. “And we’re not the only ones. There are a lot of cool companies out there. Chicago is the tech hub of the Midwest.”