A conversation with Flex engineer: Sandra Gonzalez

on October 23, 2023

Sandra Gonzalez is a program manager in the Automotive group at Flex in Stuttgart, Germany. Here she discusses her journey in design and engineering, how the sector has become more inclusive, and why, after moving thousands of miles from Mexico to Germany she was drawn back to work at Flex.

 

A conversation with Flex engineer: Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez, Program Manager, Flex - Stuttgart, Germany

 

Tell us about you and your role at Flex?

I’m a programme manager at the Flex automotive design centre in Stuttgart, Germany.  We have design centres around the world that work on a range of automotive components, from power electronics in electric vehicles to the compute platforms that enable advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and much more. 

My story begins in Mexico. I graduated as an industrial designer and have always been interested in building things. The creativity and process that can bring an idea to reality, whether it’s a piece of art, a product, or a machine, has always been fascinating to me.

I did my internship at Flex and got to experience manufacturing processes for consumer products first hand. It was interesting to see how the products that I bought every day were made. Not only did I get to learn about the inner workings of those products, but I also had the opportunity to work in different areas of production. 

Over a period of about five years working with some highly skilled engineers who generously shared their knowledge, I mastered how to set up and optimize production lines.  I enjoyed the work, particularly interacting with our customers and explaining the regular efficiency improvements we made. However, I was keen to further my education and see some of the world.  I’d never been outside of Mexico.

I secured a place in a master’s degree program in User Experience Design in Germany and set off. After successfully completing this course, I got an incredible opportunity to work at Flex again. This time at the automotive design centre in Stuttgart. It was a perfect fit for me and combined my interests in product design, development, and user experience with the strict standards and certifications for manufacturers in the highly regulated automotive sector.

I'm excited to be working in a design center that manufactures products in my home city. Products where, as an industrial engineer, I had worked on their layout proposals and the installation of the production lines. So, I now have a great appreciation of the entire process.

  

What skills do you believe are important for those wanting to enter a career in a technical field such as engineering?

While technical engineering and design skills are essential to do the job, enhanced communication and collaboration skills are growing in importance.

Automakers are adopting new business models that see them partnering with an ecosystem of suppliers to develop next-generation mobility products. This means a different and more collaborative way of working with customers and their partners.

Listening and being open to new ideas is key. In a busy professional environment like a design centre, there is a vast amount of experience to tap into, so I’m always open to hear from people who can share their expertise.

Here we collaborate to get things done and you must be able to work with different personalities, different generations, nationalities, and cultures. So teamwork and patience play a vital role. As a non-native English speaker, I appreciate when colleagues are patient and take time to understand me.

I also feel that self-regulation is very important. Your attitude, how you think, how you approach your work, the consistency of your performance, and your perseverance to overcome obstacles and see the job through are all necessary ingredients. By building personal resilience, you can learn how to handle pressure with a positive and constructive mindset.

 

What would you say are the main challenges for women working in engineering today?

I’m glad to see that there is an increasing number of women entering technology and engineering fields, which I hope will lead to even more role-models to inspire prospective engineers. 

We must always be vigilant for our own unconscious biases, but I think there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards better gender representation in modern workplaces. There are certainly more opportunities for women today.

While expectations are shifting, there is still room for some gender balance when it comes to juggling work and home life. Many traditional gender roles or caregiving tasks can still fall to women regardless of her job outside the home.

 

Do you think there's any misconceptions about working in engineering as a male- dominated industry?

When I started, I was worried about prejudice and not being taken seriously as a woman. However, my reality was that the team around me was very supportive and made me feel welcome and comfortable. I am aware that this is not the same experience for all women and so I consider myself fortunate.

From a personal perspective, while I come from a traditional family, my parents taught me to be independent. I had a great role-model in my mother, who is a strong woman.

I have been lucky to be surrounded by independent women not only in my family, but also with my friends and colleagues who have carved out careers in fields such as medicine, robotics, design, and art. All of them have been an inspiration to me by demonstrating that challenges can be overcome and that hard work and a strong will can be rewarded.

 

Do you have any mentors or role models that have helped shape your career?

Yes, I’ve had several. Many of my mentors were people who I’ve worked alongside over the years.  If I was to single out one person, it would be my first manager at Flex in Mexico. I was quiet and shy when I started, and of course I had a lot to learn. He was a constant support to me and mentored me as I built my confidence. In the five years he was my manager, I matured a lot and felt ready for a new challenge. I’m grateful to him for being part of that.

 

What advice would you give someone joining the engineering industry?

By being curious and open, I’ve had the opportunity to experience multiple areas - from engineering to facilities to finance. Since October 2022, I’ve even learned to code software.

My co-workers have always been great. The people were patient when I asked for support and that’s something that I really appreciate.  My journey from working student, to full time engineer has taught me to be observant and proactive, always look for the opportunity to learn from coworkers and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Be clear on your goals. Be confident, embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, and stay curious.

 

At Flex, we are on a continuous journey of learning and development and welcome people from all backgrounds to drive innovation and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

For more information, please visit: https://flex.com/careers/germany-en

 

 

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