Inri Rodriguez

Turning a Hobby into a Career


Born and raised in southeast San Diego, Inri Rodriguez, is a two-time Cuyamaca College alumnus. From 2012-2015, Rodriguez completed the IGETC program at Cuyamaca and transferred to UCSD. His interest in the practical applications of engineering in conjunction with his exceptional math skills led Rodriguez a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduating in 2018 from UCSD.


Post-graduation, Rodriguez had difficulty finding an engineering job; the engineering field was and continues to be extremely competitive. Rodriguez opted to work as a shuttle driver at UCSD, giving him the time he needed to weigh his options and plan his next move.


“I always had a passion for cars and I had started to work on them myself when I bought my 1998 Mustang Cobra in 2018,” said Rodriguez. Although he had always been interested in the automotive industry, Rodriguez’s primary goal was engineering. After doing some research on the automotive department at Cuyamaca College, he found that the program was the combination of both.


Automotive Apprenticeship

Rodriguez learned of the Ford ASSET program, a program allows students to continue automotive education and manufacturer certification while working at a dealership. In 2020, Rodriguez began working with Ford in Encinitas as his sponsoring dealership.


After completing the program in 2022, Rodriguez became fully certified as a Ford technician with an Associate’s Degree in Automotive Technology. Shortly after which, he began his career at Kia America as a Field Data Analysis Engineer in the Safety Office.


Rodriguez attributes much of his success in the program to the faculty members that served to inspire and support students like him. Rodriguez noted that skilled instructors like Mike Fulcher, Ignacio Castaneda Garcia, and Kevin Crowder worked tirelessly to help students grow in the classroom and in the field. Rodriguez says he was able to relate to Castaneda Garcia in particular as they both came from similar backgrounds and Rodriguez would be taking a similar path as Castaneda Garcia.


“Seeing their success made me want to do well in class and at the dealership to develop my skills as an automotive technician,” said Rodriguez. “The automotive department really opened my eyes to how successful someone can be and how much money there is to be made at the master and senior master level.”


Smaller Class Size

Rodriguez noted that the smaller class sizes at Cuyamaca allowed him to better connect to his instructors and fellow classmates. With classmates from all walks of life, the intimate classroom setting made for a strong community to use as a backbone on his journey.


“Whether it's a high school student getting ahead, or a parent with kids, or a veteran, or a recent immigrant to the US or an older adult or university grad coming back to change their career path, it's nice meeting all sorts of people,” said Rodriguez.