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MICHauto Mobility Tech Stars: Finding Your Place in the Industry

MICHauto’s Mobility Tech Stars joined Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto, at the North American International Auto Show to discuss their experiences in creating the cutting-edge technology and vehicles of the new mobility era in Michigan.

These three speakers were among seven of the brightest and best in the mobility space featured in the September 2022 Detroiter magazine cover story. Explore the issue here.

Stevens opened the conversation by acknowledging that each panelist is passionate about what they do but inquired what drew them to their respective companies.

Athira Vilson, OBD power electronics engineer at BorgWarner, is especially motivated by her company’s focus on reducing global warming by moving into electrification. She said, “working for a company that has the same ideology as me is what makes me so excited about working on new technology there.”

Margarita Mann, senior engineering manager of HYDROTEC Hydrogen Fuel Cell Business at General Motors, was able to work directly with customers through the Project Driveway program to understand their experience needs when she first began at GM. She now incorporates this into the products she designs, engineers, and creates. She said, “having that understanding of what’s important to a customer and adding that it’s zero-emission, General Motors has enabled me to do that in my career. ‘Zero, zero, zero’ is our mantra and our mission and bleeds into everything that we do.”

Vince Galante, global head of user experience design at Stellantis, was inspired by his teacher-turned-colleague, Ralph Gilles, who exposed him to the spectrum of personalities and talents that exist within automotive careers. “Between seeing the people, seeing the cars they were producing, and then seeing how it all comes together, I was surprised at what a collaborative and passionate culture was there.” No matter what position he held, Galante could tell that he would be able to have a noticeable impact at the company.

Having all come to Michigan to pursue a career in the automotive and mobility industry, Stevens asked what it is about the state and/or the industry that either excites them or needs improvement.

Vilson would like to see companies in Michigan put more effort into recruiting diverse talent, which will attract more people to explore automotive and mobility careers in Michigan.

Mann, a California native, made a quip about the state’s penchant for inclement weather, which is a small price to pay for the opportunities that working at GM has created for her. She said, “I’ve learned to innovate. I’ve become an inventor in these processes and these technologies, things I never knew I could be. I work on a lot of really exciting projects that will change the world for the better.”

Galante is impressed with how much growth and change the city of Detroit has experienced since he attended the College for Creative Studies in the early 2000s. In the automotive industry in particular, “there’s a lot of opportunity because there’s so much that we don’t know about how the technology affects the vehicle.” Stellantis is maximizing this potential by creating partnerships with schools to “provide an opportunity for talent that doesn’t yet know they have a place in the industry.”