Technology Academy Analyst
Job Title: Front Bumper Design Engineer
Company: Ford Australia
Pronouns: She / Her / Hers / Herself
Quiz Results: Providing a Service, Communicating, Educating
In high school I was kind of quiet and a bit nerdy. I used to read a lot and I really liked going to the school library. I was pretty studious, but if you had to place me in the maths class, I would have been at the hardest math's class. So I was definitely pushing myself with respect to maths. There was a point where I failed my first math test in year 11, and I'd never really struggled with maths before. That was the moment I realised I'm going to have to really work to get through this, because until then, I hadn't been working. Not hard. Then in year 11 and 12 I studied and worked harder.
I probably found physics and chemistry most interesting. I also really liked French and English as well. I really enjoyed reading and I loved analyzing those texts. During school I went on a French exchange, and that was what really helped my French language learning. I became more passionate about French after doing that exchange.
Going into University I was a lot more social. I was volunteering for the University engineering club and other things like that. I did a lot of extracurricular stuff. I also enjoyed sports at school and at University. My life wasn't all books, and at university I just had a really good time across many different areas of campus life. I found engineering very challenging at University level, but I got through it with decent marks.
I now work at Ford as a front bumper engineer. I manage everything to do with the front bumper, things like the design feasibility or manufacturing feasibility. I also work making sure we're hitting all of the milestones and working with attributes. So attributes or teams within Ford that look at, instead of looking at one part, like I do, they look at an entire system of the car. That might be craftsmanship or noise and vibration etc. There's a lot of different attributes and I work with the relevant ones for the bumper to meet their targets.
I went from University straight into the Ford graduate program. In the program, they rotate you around different areas of the ford business. I started out in the design studio, where I was like an engineer working alongside the designers. I am now the bumper engineer, and I still work with the design studio a lot, but I don't represent the studio's interests in trying to make everyone happy. Whereas a studio engineer, which is what I was two years ago, I worked to represent the design studios interests.
In these roles you have to negotiate between different areas and people. One example is the interactions between the design studio engineer and the design engineer for the engineering side of the company. Often they have to meet in the middle.
My first position in the design studio was really cool because I got to see all of the up and coming designs, and work with the more artistic side of the company. The role gave me a taste of designing the car and finding innovation, doing customer research and finding innovative solutions. I found it really interesting.
My second role at Ford was in vehicle dynamics. So vehicle dynamics is essentially working with all the different forces on the car coming through the wheels and also gravity. I worked looking at making sure, for example, tire design, suspension, design, and making sure that the ride and handling of the car is safe and also appropriate for the customer. A good example is the ride of a car, which is what you feel when you go over a speed Bump on the road. Questions we ask in that role might be are you going to feel every single bump that you go over, or is it going to be smooth? All at the same time remembering that different customers want different things. For example a more sporty car, like a Ford Mustang, you'll feel all that bumps in the road because customers who drive this car want to be connected to the road and feel everything. So you have full control over the car. Whereas if you might be driving a Ford Everest, which is an SUV, customers want a bit of a smoother ride because It's a family car.
Through these different roles, I was able to gain insight into a vast range of aspects that go into designing a car. What people might not realise is the number of people that it takes to design a car is just phenomenal.
At the moment, there's a couple of phases that I go through in this role. I started out in the design phase where we're still working on design solutions and doing the 3D CAD. We finalize the design and the appearance of how it all works and then we make the plastic injection mold tools. Then the next day, we make those steel, plastic injection mold tools, and then make some initial prototype parts. We're in the phase where there's a lot of prototype testing happening. Currently when testing my part there are some issues so I now need to go back and fix those.
One example is that we have one part that is currently too flexible. We found that when you push on it with your hand, it's quite soft. So part of the process is now thinking about what we would want to do to fix that and how do any changes affect other aspects of the car. If that part is on the front of the bumper, that will affect the street pedestrian protection safety team. So I can't just go in and change that part as I like, because that might make it less safe for pedestrians. We have to make sure that all parts meet the requirements for pedestrian protection.
With any changes I want to make I write them up as a proposal and then I would take that proposal to that safety team and say “Hey, can we do this to that part?”, and they might say no, and then that's pretty final. A large part of my role is just getting through solving all of those problems that come up.
My greatest physical achievement would be going to New Zealand and climbing this mountain in the Matukituki valley, near Wanaka. I got that opportunity thanks to an award I got for my contributions to the engineering faculty at UWA. There was this guy who loved mountaineering and also was a part of the engineering faculty at UWA in the nineties and he set up this award to give to students who contribute to the faculty.
I won the award with another student and we went over and had like an all expenses paid trip to New Zealand and climbed up this Mountain! That was a challenge. Like, I feel like I could have died. There were moments that I thought that I wasn't going to make it, and that sounds terrifying, but it was really rewarding.
On the hike we found that the tracks would be flat for a few hours and then suddenly the tracks went straight up. It felt like I was rock climbing up the side of the mountain. We climbed up to snow, but it wasn't snowy the whole way. It was however raining the whole time and all we could see was the rain flooding down the side of the mountain. It felt like we were climbing up a stream, just the stream of water. It was just terrifying but we finally got there.
I would say like a lot of people experienced imposter syndrome, especially women.
I think that it's normal to feel like you're not as good as everyone else. It's normal to feel like people are going to discover that actually you're not that smart and successful like that. That's what the classic imposter syndrome definition is, that despite obvious signs of your success, you don’t feel like you belong where you are.
For example, you might have good school marks but despite the evidence of your good work you still think that you're not smart or not successful. It's just that little voice inside your head. I think it’s really important to just acknowledge that it's normal and the best thing you can do is just try to ignore it and keep going and keep pushing forward.
Don't let that voice hold you back, don't let yourself fall into the trap of genuinely believing that you are not as good as everyone else. Because I can promise you that you're not the only one that thinks that. Everyone has a little bit of self-doubt and that's completely normal.
Another piece of advice I have is which I know it's cliche, but it is to just be yourself. It's good to be yourself at work, and if you aren't comfortable being yourself or at least maybe a filtered version of yourself, then it's not the right work environment for you and you shouldn't have to change your personality to fit in at work. That workplace should, should change to, to be inclusive to you.
But unfortunately the reality is that a lot of workplaces aren't that inclusive and you shouldn't punish yourself by staying there. It's their loss, If you're gone. So find an inclusive workplace that you feel comfortable in and you'll flourish.