Julie Stears, 34
Chief engineer, engineering quality, Jaguar Land Rover
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My dad was always working on cars and building things. I was lucky because we worked on these projects together. My favorite was converting a single-decker bus into our family camper van. Anything that needed building, we built together. This got me interested in the industry and I have been fortunate to have always been employed in automotive. I started my career at General Motors’ plant in Ellesmere Port, England, working on the supply chain. That is where I had the fantastic opportunity to help launch the sixth-generation Opel/Vauxhall Astra. That experience made me hooked for life on the automotive industry.
Your greatest achievement?
It has to be the work we have done to transform the quality of our engineering and products by addressing our disconnected and slow operating systems for quality. Over three years I have established a customer-focused standardized framework with a clear vision and mission that required a restructure of this part of the organization. This transformation has led to a 50 percent reduction in faults in our vehicles. It has been the beginning of our upward journey in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey. I’m proud I got to lead this.
Family: Husband, Philip
Born: Newcastle, England
Education: Bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, England
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
My first role at Jaguar Land Rover saw me join a launch team experiencing significant pressure to achieve tight deadlines. I did a lot of work alone, rather than taking it back to the team. I learned that teamwork truly gives an organization strength. The diversity of strengths and weaknesses across a team allows for a much stronger outcome than what can be achieved alone.
What is your current challenge at work?
We are currently transforming our company in so many ways. However, it's such an exciting time.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Feedback is a gift and sometimes it’s an unwanted one. Usually, feedback doesn’t come without expectations or an agenda. Find a mentor outside of your direct reporting line, someone you can trust. Feedback from trusted sources will allow you to change your behavior and be more self-aware. Just make sure you trust where this advice is coming from.
2021-present: Chief engineer, engineering quality, Jaguar Land Rover, Whitley, England
2019-2021: Senior manager in engineering quality, Jaguar Land Rover, Whitley
2017-2019: Plant vehicle team manager, engineering for the I-Pace, E-Pace, Jaguar Land Rover, Graz, Austria
2015-2017: New model launch manager, manufacturing, Jaguar Land Rover, Liverpool and Graz
2012-2015: Launch engineer, manager, manufacturing, Johnson Controls, Liverpool, England
2010-2012: Supplier quality engineer, purchasing, General Motors, Ellesmere Port, England
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Go for it! Automotive careers have never been this exciting. Technology is moving exponentially fast and there’s no shortage of opportunities. Technology is never out of fashion and the opportunity to innovate always exists. Automotive careers consisting of dirty hands and overalls are long gone.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like to work with young talent in a technical space. I really like the idea of working with bright people and shaping their future.
What do you do to relax?
I try to get out with my bike because it helps me decompress. When I’m not cycling, I enjoy do-it-yourself projects.
What is your dream location to live?
That would be Newcastle, England, where my family is.
What is your favorite driving song?
“The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My favorite road trip was when my husband and I traveled to Austria from England over a weekend. We had a great car, drove on the autobahn in the sunshine while enjoying our questionable music choices.
What was your first car?
A Fiat 500.
A Range Rover.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be an Audi TT because it’s a timeless classic.