So perhaps it’s no surprise that each of the engineers we spoke to in honor of International Women in Engineering Day, identified the underlying motivation behind their career is to use engineering to improve people’s lives.
In an industry where women often drive the purchasing decisions, four engineers working on INFINITI vehicles in both Japan and the USA shared their stories of success. INFINITI is proud to celebrate the inspiration behind their journeys into the field of engineering, and how they are motivated to use their talents and insights to create unique vehicles that better serve the brand’s customers the world over.
“Having a wide range of unique perspectives is critical to the development of our vehicles so that every driver feels that their needs are understood. Studies have shown that women are in the driver’s seat for a lot of major purchasing decisions so it’s essential that right from the beginning we have a female perspective,” said Olga FilIippova, divisional general manager of INFINITI’s Global Sales and Marketing. “On International Women in Engineering Day, we are proud to share some of these stories of our talented engineers from around the world, who powerfully deliver solutions for a better customer experience.”
Yu Ando, Interior Design Engineer, Planning and Vehicle Component Engineering Division, Atsugi, Japan
From a very early age, Yu Ando saw how things were made up close and personal thanks to her father who was a consumer electronics engineer. This early exposure sparked a curiosity to design things on her own that other people could benefit from. This even led her to build a personal computer at a very early age, mirroring her father’s work.
Today, she designs car interiors, with a focus on the cockpit module (instrument panel, center console, meter cluster, etc.,), which is particularly rewarding according to Ando-san because they are part of a very constant experience for the consumer. And as a smaller framed woman, she has an important role in ensuring that interiors are user-friendly for a range of body types.
Ando would encourage girls to pursue a career in engineering and to be unintimated by automobile engineering even though the majority remain men. She said, “You might have an image that the work environment is not friendly for women, but in reality, it is a work place where diversity is valued and opportunity available regardless of gender. We know how important many perspectives are for good design.”
Kanako Kakizaki, Senior Manager, Vehicle Planning, Michigan, USA
For Kanako Kakizaki, engineering in the automotive industry delivers an appealing mix of challenge and reward. She acknowledges that it’s an incredibly competitive field that is constantly changing with new technologies and players.
But for an engineer, she explained automotive is incredibly satisfying since “you build a product from scratch that is assembled by tens of thousands of parts into a single car.” And the reward, is even bigger:” The most fulfilling part is to see the positive impact I can create in the lives of people because engineering is less about the machine itself and more about the humans we make it for” explains Kakizaki.
Kakizaki discovered her career calling when studying ergonomics at university. She happened to be working next to students conducting research on automobiles and her interest was piqued. She had her light bulb moment when she realized she could apply ergonomic knowledge of customer physiques and usage to help inform an engineering perspective. And from here, Kakizaki shifted gears to a pursue a career in the automotive industry and has never looked back.
Samantha Poeppelman, Test Project Manager, Michigan, USA
Samantha Poeppelman was drawn toward STEM programs growing up, but it wasn’t until physics class in high school that she realized she wanted to do the hands-on, application side of science & math: engineering. After this discovery, however, she still wasn’t quite sure of her focus area, but joining an all-women’s racecar team and participating in many internships helped solidify her direction.
“I knew I wanted to empower other women in engineering while working for a company that makes something that touches the lives of people on a daily basis,” she stated. “Cars were the perfect fit given transportation is such an essential part of people’s day and I have the opportunity to help make their days better.”
As an engineer with solid experience under her belt, Poeppelman now understands that taking chances and making mistakes is an important part of the process. “Engineering is a cycle, you try different ideas out, pick a solution, model the end result and evaluate the outcome – this outcome is not always perfect or correct on the first or even 100th try, but we keep cycling through until the best solution is found.” And in the end, she says that the tangible impacts she sees from her work is all the motivation she needs to keep striving for even better results in the future.
Brittany Tessmer, Senior Project Engineer, Marketability, Michigan, USA
It may have been in the genes for Brittany Tessmer to become an engineer, like her father. She always liked playing with numbers in her head, enjoyed math as subject in school, and over time, she was drawn toward STEM related projects which eventually led to her career.
In her role today as Senior Project Engineer in Marketability, she represents the voice of the customer and uses data and facts to design a vehicle which remains competitive and creates value for the company. “To truly understand the customer experience, you have to be one,” said Tessmer. “So, most days I actually spend time in a vehicle, whether it’s an INFINITI or a competitor car to evaluate how we stack up.”
Tessmer’s career satisfaction drives a deeper belief that the future for engineers is bright and encourages younger generations to consider it as well. She emphasized, “This isn’t your dad’s engineering or what you may think it is. It’s not pocket protectors and blueprints – it’s gaining the tools today to help solve tomorrow’s problems. If you find yourself enjoying math and science, with a desire for understanding how things work and a knack for improvement then engineering would be a good fit.”
For all four engineers, International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to not only reflect briefly on their own journey and accomplishments – bringing world class products to buyers around the globe, but also a moment to use their voices and encourage other women to join them, in a rewarding pursuit to engineer a better tomorrow.