Head of vehicle performance engineering 1 , Toyota Europe
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started my career with Toyota Europe immediately after university and worked for our body engineering division. I wanted to find a position that would have a direct and positive impact on the lives of others while also allowing me to be creative. I thought automotive and the overall movement of people, with all its future challenges, would be a very interesting and evolving area of work.
Your greatest achievement?
It’s the creation of the pioneering sensory quality (SQ) activity within Toyota Europe and the expansion of this on a global scale within Toyota. I set up the team in Europe in 2011, creating the SQ methodologies and processes. Then I applied them to an initial vehicle project. I oversaw the team’s expansion locally and pursued its recognition with our headquarters in Japan, culminating in my international assignment there. My mission in Toyota Japan was to build a new team from scratch, create a global SQ strategy and negotiate widely to raise awareness. I also had to integrate the activity into each car company within Toyota. It was a huge undertaking and involved the training of more than 1,000 engineers, stylists and planners with the basics of SQ design. Through this activity we have been able to impact Toyota interiors worldwide. It has given me the opportunity to develop and work with wonderful teams both in Europe and Japan. That has been hugely rewarding to me. Personally, my greatest achievement is surviving the daily craziness that comes with managing our family of five’s work, school and activities schedules.
Born: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Languages: English, Dutch, basic French and Japanese
Education: Master’s degree in automotive product engineering, Cranfield University, Cranfield, England; bachelor’s degree with honors in mechanical engineering, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
When I was a young engineer, I was part of a small team that worked on a future interior concept for a global series. We presented it in Japan. Sadly, it wasn’t selected. Although at the time this experience was tough, the project provided a great learning opportunity. It taught me about the complexity of interior concept making, the importance of Toyota’s values in such concepts and the significance of talking to customers to deeply understand their needs. Now working in user experience, I see how important it is to learn from “failures.” I take great joy in how we identify and eliminate such obstacles early on via valuable user testing, continuing throughout the development process.
What is your current challenge at work?
My current challenge is ensuring our upcoming vehicles and services will be ready for the future. They must support our customers as they face the transition to electric; increasing levels of automation; as well as rapid digitalization. For me, this means leading our cross-functional UX [user experience] team to deliver on the European vision we created for 2030, continuously improving the customer’s experience with every forthcoming vehicle. I also have to consider vehicle performance and how to balance the traditional dynamic performances with the growing non-dynamic customer priorities such as UX and SQ. Finally, I must ensure that we develop and enhance these performances in an increasingly digital way through our driving-simulator team.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
It’s most important to be kind. I tell my children this all the time. During my early days while attending an all-girls school in Northern Ireland, I acquired another important piece of advice: One of our school’s mottos was the Latin phrase Nil Obstet. It roughly means, “Let nothing hinder me.” This has been important while facing challenges during different stages of my life.
2022 to present: Head of vehicle performance engineering 1, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2019–2022: Senior manager trim and SQ (sensory quality), R&D UX (user experience) leader, Toyota Europe, Brussels,
2018–2022: Senior manager instrument panel and SQ, body engineering, Toyota Europe, Brussels,
2017–2018: Manager SQ, Toyota Motor, Aichi, Japan
2011–2016: Manager instrument panel and sensory quality, body engineering, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2007–2011: Engineer and senior engineer, instrument panel development and SQ body engineering, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2005–2006: Engineer, interior body engineering department, Toyota Motor, Aichi, Japan
2004–2005: Graduate in interior team, body engineering, Toyota Europe, Brussels
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Go for it. I don’t think there has ever been a more exciting time to be part of our industry. There are countless challenges and opportunities. I would recommend you find the area that motivates and drives you the most. That way work seems like a hobby.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I want to support Toyota in delivering inspiring mobility for all. I want to help those who struggle with or haven’t been able to access mobility so far and enhance the experience of moving for everyone. Personally, it’s most important to me to be in a job where I can have an impact, make valuable contributions and be surrounded by great people as we work toward a positive common goal.
What do you do to relax?
I spend time with my family and play sports. It’s mainly field hockey and running. I also like socializing with friends.
What is your dream location to live?
If the weather was a bit better, I would have to consider my home country of Northern Ireland. However, living in Belgium is great. It’s the land of beer and chocolate with a glorious countryside. I’m surrounded by fabulous friends and my wonderful family, so I really can’t complain.
What is your favorite driving song?
It’s “We are Young” by Fun. I love the song’s beginning beats and singing along as loudly – and badly – as I can.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
While living in Japan, my now-husband, two other friends and I went to Hokkaido by boat and drove back through northern Japan. We had quite a few adventures both on and off the road.
What was your first car?
A blue Opel Corsa, which I bought from my mother.
A Toyota Highlander.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Lexus LC convertible. It features fantastic styling, a wonderfully opulent interior and awesome power.