European Leading Women
Name: Danella Bagnall
Title: Chief product engineer
Company: Jaguar Land Rover
Location: Gaydon, England
Age: 45
Family: Aunt to nephews, Barnaby, 8, Caspar, 6; niece, Betsy, 3
Born: Coventry, England
Nationality: British
Languages: English
Education: Doctorate in technology (honorary degree) University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, England; bachelor's degree (with honors) in combined engineering, Coventry University, Coventry, England

Danella Bagnall

What attracted you to the auto industry?

I enjoyed math and science at school and decided to find out more about engineering. I looked into apprenticeships, was able to continue my education, learn new skills and was excited to earn a wage. I can vividly remember the moment I was hooked. It was when I saw cars being assembled on the trim and final assembly line. As I was watching doors in a carousel in the roof meet up with the trimmed body it seemed to me like this was mechanical poetry. Amazing!

First automotive job:

I joined Austin Rover as a technical apprentice in September 1987. After I earned my degree my first role was in body engineering, where I worked on seat structures starting in September 1992.

What was your big breakthrough?

I increased my technical and leadership knowledge as well as gained an added sense of responsibility with every move at JLR. However, my big break was leading the body engineering team including the new aluminum body shell on our all-new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

What major challenge have you faced in your career?

I relish challenges and enjoy problem solving as well as working collaboratively and cross functionally. There is always a way to solve a problem if you get the right group of people together.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

Definitely my mother. She provided me with encouragement to work hard and achieve my goals. She died 20 years ago and I like to think she's watching from behind a cloud and proud of what I have achieved in my engineering career.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?

This is an area I'm very active in. Nothing gives me greater enjoyment than spotting and nurturing talent. There's more to be done though as there is an engineering skills gap in the UK. I think industry and schools need to do even more together to show how fascinating, diverse and interesting engineering is to children at an early age.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

I like to exercise as well as catch up with family and friends. However, I'm just as likely to pack an overnight back, throw it in the trunk of my Evoque Convertible and head off for a weekend adventure. I love visiting new places.

What keeps you awake at night?

If I let it, I can be kept awake thinking about Brexit and the changes due as a result of the recent referendum in the UK. But sleep is very important so I try my best to get at least six hours every night.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I have driven a lap of the Nurburgring in Germany. I didn't set any records but I certainly enjoyed the chance to experience that once-in-a-lifetime moment.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I have been a bit cheeky and assembled a small dinner party. I would love to be at a table with: Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma, who is one of the most inspiring and brave female leaders I can think of; Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons as I would love to hear what he thinks of the F-Pace; and John Lennon as I've been based in our Halewood factory in Liverpool for the last 18 months. It is a diverse bunch but I think we would have an interesting evening.

If I had it to do all over again, I would ...

Pretty much do what I've done. Life is too short for regrets. I'm happy with how my career has progressed. I've taken responsibility for my career and own personal development. I'm worked on lots of great cars with amazing people so I'm not complaining.

When and where was your last vacation?

My last holiday was in June. I had a few busy days in Athens exploring the city and sights, which were breathtaking. Then I had a few restful days in Santorini, where I just read my Kindle and watched the cruise ships arrive and depart. It was very therapeutic.

Name one talent you wish you had.

I wish I could sing. I have a great group of friends I have known since university. At our get-togethers we often sing and while they give me high marks for enthusiasm and effort, my ability to carry a tune is woeful.

The best advice you’ve ever received?

It's advice that I give others and it's just two words: Be yourself. Don't try and be like others. We are all amazing individuals.

What advice would you give your child?

This is for my nephews and niece, whom I absolutely adore and treasure: Be happy. I want them to be happy in this sometimes complicated world.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

Now that's a tricky question: Do I pick a classic or a more modern one? I think I have to pick the car I'm now looking after for JLR: the Jaguar F-Pace. It's stylish and practical and has a sense of adventure. Who wouldn't want to be any of those things?

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