Alumna drives design quality at LA-based luxury vehicle start-up

Michelle Lo posing with the Faraday Future luxury electric vehicle

Western Engineering News | September 27, 2021

For Western Engineering alumna Michelle Lo, BESc/HBA’15, engineering brings the ‘spice’ to design. And, what better way to spice up a career in design engineering than to work for luxury electric vehicle start-up Faraday Future in Los Angeles?

Lo, who graduated from Western’s Electrical Engineering and Ivey HBA dual degree program in 2015, credits her co-op at General Dynamics Land Systems for inspiring her to pursue design engineering in the automotive industry.

We caught up with Lo to learn more about her exciting career in the automotive industry, discuss her Western student experience, and understand the impact of mentors for women in STEM. 

Can you share a high-level overview of your career, including major role responsibilities and highlights?

From 2015-2017, I started my career at Tesla in their Fremont and Palo Alto locations. Within that time, I worked on the launch of the Model S refresh and Model X. I worked in the Design Quality department, interacting closely with manufacturers, designers, and other engineers to develop automotive parts to meet appearance standards.

In 2018, I moved to Los Angeles to develop a design quality process at Faraday Future, a luxury electric vehicle company that recently went public via a special purpose acquisition company. I’m currently still at Faraday Future where I’m working on launching their inaugural product the FF91 in 2022. I’ve been a huge part of implementing a quality process that fits with the new innovations of vehicle manufacturing and have been challenged by the modern problems of automotive technology.

Can you describe your student experience and how your Western Engineering degree prepared you for your role at Tesla and now at Faraday Future?

Western’s touted student experience taught me how to work with a diverse group of people and has carried through to my work experiences. I’ve developed strong comradery with my colleagues and that is something that mirrors my time working with my peers in engineering classes at Western and serving as a class rep with the UES in both my first and fourth years of study.

Also, with Western providing the opportunity for engineering students to pursue dual degrees, it gave me an advantage in understanding a far greater scope of work. While working in a start-up environment, I often have to rely on many skills beyond technical engineering.

A memorable class that I wish I valued more at the time was the first-year design project. It mimics well how to approach engineering problems in the workplace; understanding how to define a problem, scope the solution and to use empathy to solve problems creatively. Looking into my later years of school, the co-op helped me find a job at General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London, where I met a lot of people working in the automotive industry. That created the network I needed to start my career in electric vehicle automotive.

What does the role of mentorship for women in STEM mean to your personally?

Any opportunity to build connections with women in STEM and entrepreneurship is important to me. My first manager at Tesla was a woman who I look up to and draw from in my professional career. Being around a woman making decisions and handling tough situations has helped with my ability to grow as a professional. I cherish that relationship and hope to build more of those connections with other women professionally, both as a mentor and mentee. I hope to pass on stories and guidance to women starting out in STEM based on my experiences in the tech industry. 

What advice do you have for early engineering students and recent graduates?  

Find a mentor who you look up to and relate to. I would recommend networking a lot to find different leaders in your industry whose values and leadership qualities you relate to and who will be a great fit as mentors for you. It is never too early to start networking with industry professionals.

Work in a “hot” industry if you want to grow your career and education quickly. A “hot” industry is one that a lot of investment and attention is going towards. I’ve learned that roles can change in engineering, but picking the right industry is more important for exposure and growth. In a stagnant industry with less investment, there is less funding for innovation, which then trickles to knowledge in your field. Secondly, you often get paid less in a stagnant industry, as the funding to recruit talent is going to high-growth industries. You’ll also be working with people who push innovation in high-growth industries, increasing your exposure to expertise.