Name: Adrienne Williamson
Job Title and Description: Electrical Vehicle Validation Engineer for General Motors
College/Major: Kettering University/BS Electrical Engineering; University of Michigan/Masters Energy Systems Engineering
Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Adrienne Williamson: My current job entails tracking electrical validation for a couple specific vehicle programs. This includes putting together vehicle schedules, tracking validation status, and reporting out to management. There is such a thing as a typical day, but they are never 100% identical. Each day has different tasks and challenges to overcome.
HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
AW: My first entry-level job was as a battery test engineer in the high voltage battery lab. It was a very hands-on job and I learned a lot about hybrid systems. I was a co-op student with General Motors prior to my first full-time job, so I was very fortunate to get extended this full-time job opportunity.
HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
AW: One thing I wish I knew when I first started out that I wish I knew now is not particular to the automotive industry, but I wish I knew that it was okay to speak up more about your career goals and asking for a mentor or help with career advice. Being a new employee at a company, you want to have a good impression with your management and co-workers. I learned that people do take an interest in your career development and want to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a mentor or someone to talk to and answer your questions.
HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
AW: My professional life has changed a great deal and for the better since I started my new job. I would not be in this position today if my boss did not give me this opportunity. I have learned so much more about the company as a whole in terms of processes and how different groups function. Not only have I learned a lot, but I have also met so many different people and my network has grown tremendously. When I first started out after college, I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to be five or 10 years down the road within the organization. Now I feel I have a good idea and feel more confident in my career goals.
HC: What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
AW: "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” - Henry J. Kaiser
I like this quote because a lot of people look at problems as a struggle that is hard to get over. We don’t realize until we resolve the problem that it truly shows what we are capable of to others and ourselves.
HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
AW: Throughout my career thus far, I don’t think there is one particular situation I can identify. One thing I have learned though is to always take the time to think things through and determine the action plan before you react. Completing a task is not about being done early, but completing it with high confidence and quality. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task is.
HC: What is the best part of your job?
AW: I like being able to interact with so many different people, which provides a lot of exposure throughout different organizations within the company. It has a good balance of hands-on and desk time. My co-workers are really great people too; having great co-workers really makes a difference.
Working on the Volt in general was also an exciting experience. While I have worked on a small sub-set of the vehicle program as a whole, I am proud of what I did every time I look at the car. It was really cool when I got to volunteer for ride and drives and teach consumers—and even other GM employees—about the Volt, how it functions, and what it has to offer. The Volt is a vehicle that I take pride in and I love sharing it with other people, and the best experience by far has been working on a technology no one else has ever done and developing new processes. People sometimes would come to my colleagues and me as the experts in the area, and it feels really good that someone values your advice.
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
AW: There are various opportunities within engineering, so keep an open mind. Give every job opportunity a chance so you can learn more about yourself, your interests, and where you see yourself going.