WinA Member of the Month
As a thriving and inspiring woman in STEM, July Aye’s experience as a Supercar Body Systems Engineer is just the beginning of her ever impressive journey in automotive and engineering.
Currently working in the Aerospace industry in California, July’s passion for the world of automotive continues to grow vocationally, as well as an even stronger passion for supporting the women who pursue it professionally.
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Tell us a bit about your current role or involvement in the automotive industry.
While my current work role is in the aerospace industry, I have spent the past 5 years prior to this in the automotive industry. I started my career at Faraday Future, a startup electric vehicle (EV) company based in Gardena, California, working as an Exteriors Engineer. This role was my real introduction to working in automotive. Later, I joined Divergent Technologies as a Body Systems Engineer, where my responsibilities covered everything from design and testing on different automotive body and closures components.
What was your first professional experience within the automotive industry?
My first professional experience was my engineering role at Faraday Future. As an Exteriors Engineer, I worked on windshields, roof glass, and backlites. I also helped with the antennas used for the marketing vehicles at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. For me, working in a startup was a great introduction into the world of automotive, as it allowed me the opportunity to see and experience multiple aspects of the company, something that would be more limited in a large established organisation.
Do you think you have experienced challenges within the industry that your male counterparts have not?
The relevant challenges I have experienced have been present in both a personal and professional environment.
The idea of women working in non-traditional fields is not widely accepted within my family’s culture, coming from Myanmar. Stereotypical gender roles were a big part of my life growing up. I did not grow up with a dad that let me help him when fixing cars or other hands on tasks, so I never had that introduction or experience to build my passion or knowledge. This hindered my ability to understand things that came easily to many of my male counterparts, like knowing the differences between certain engines.
As for challenges in the professional work environment, I was constantly being expected to prove that I belonged. I never felt like I could present an idea in a meeting without having a ton of data to back up my claims, unlike my male counterparts. In meetings I would also constantly be ignored or talked over, and the people who were doing this would not even notice. When given projects to lead, male co-workers, especially older ones, would often completely disregard my technical direction and go rogue with their designs. I would also walk into meetings and have the client immediately address my male counterparts, even though I was in fact the lead on the project in question.
While some of these examples may seem small or insignificant to some, they do hold a strong impact to the women on the receiving end, particularly when these instances are a regular occurrence.
What is your biggest achievement within the automotive industry, personal or professional?
My biggest achievement professionally was working on the world’s first 3D printed automotive doors and tailgate. I led this project as a 23 year old and did the CAD (Computer Aided Design), integration, troubleshooting, and more. I now have a patent pending for this work, meaning I’ll be confirmed as one of the inventors on these designs.
Another professional achievement proud of was assisting in the build for Divergent Technology’s demonstrator vehicle for the Pebble Beach auto show.
Do you have a favourite resource as a woman working in the automotive industry? Maybe a book, event, organization, mentor, or online platform?
I wish I could say that I had a role model that I could relate or to talk to in the industry, however, from my experience it appears that during the mid-level years of their career, women often leave the automotive industry or go into more project management based roles. For that reason, my favorite resource has been Engineering Gals (@engineeringgals) on Instagram. Through that, I’ve met many other female engineers and some of them have become my best friends. Another excellent resource has been the friends I have made from going to ‘Cars and Coffee’ auto shows (U.S. based)! Most of the people there have been really nice and often let me look inside their cars, allowing me to draw a lot of design inspiration.
Who is your inspiration as a female in automotive?
Laura Kukuk is a classic and sportscar specialist I met via Instagram. Even with a sizable platform, she has always made time to answer my messages and is now even making YouTube videos to teach people about cars. Her adventures are very inspiring, and she always promotes how important having a diverse team is.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received or that you could give to another woman working in the automotive industry?
Whenever someone tells me women don’t know about cars, I can say back with confidence that not all men know about cars, either. You only know a lot of information about the things you are passionate about. It has nothing to do with gender, and all to do with passion. The more you expose yourself to YouTube, podcasts, books, and other resources, the more you’ll soak up the industry knowledge.
Additionally, diversity is the best thing to happen to the industry. There are going to be unexpected times for you to shine. For me personally, I have smaller hands and am relatively short, so I became quite useful during build phases as I can fit or reach into challenging areas that others could not. Never underestimate how useful you are!