Kristen HAUSER '10, Automotive Engineer

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, Kristen HAUSER ’10 relocated to southeast Michigan to join the Ford Motor Company College Graduate Program. Throughout the program, she completed rotations in the areas of software development, program management, and product launch to deliver products, including the Lincoln Continental and F-150 Raptor. Now a Powertrain Fuel Economy Integration Engineer at the company, Kristen’s team is responsible for designing and implementing software that controls the electromechanical systems which allow gas engines and automatic transmissions to comply with federal emissions and fuel economy standards, as well as deliver optimal performance to customers. In her role, Kristen uses analytical tools and lab testing to find fuel economy opportunities within these control systems and collaborates with North American, European, and Chinese teams to implement the changes and ensure future regulatory compliance.

Years at Ellis
Grade 7 to Grade 12
B.S and M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Royal Oak, MI
Automotive Engineer

What is your profession? How did you get into that line of work?
I am a powertrain engineer, or more generically, a control systems engineer focusing on engine and transmission systems at Ford Motor Company. When I was graduating in 2014, there was a wide variety of industries hiring mechanical engineers, such as consumer electronics, aerospace, consulting, manufacturing, etc. I completed summer internships in the automotive industry and the defense industry. Cars are highly complex and highly regulated systems that combine elements of all of those popular industries. When considering my first role out of college, I felt excited about working on and in a product that people rely on daily. I was hired into a rotational program for new college graduates and have been at Ford ever since.

What do you like most about your job?
I’ve spent the majority of my time at Ford in roles where I support other engineers in solving problems and meeting deliverables, and this regularly includes engineering teams in other countries such as China, Brazil, Mexico, and Germany. There is instant gratification in being able to root-cause a problem and implement a plan to fix it, and I’ve gained a lot of empathy and business acumen having to design solutions and processes that accommodate different levels of engineering resources and market-specific customer needs. Also, getting to drive prototype vehicles is a nice perk, although you always run the risk of the car breaking down or falling apart—and it’s literally your job to fix it.

What lessons has your work life taught you?
When I came out of engineering school, I was very accustomed to the competitive and driven nature of my peers, and the regimen of studying and churning out problem sets where all solutions were objectively right or wrong and you were graded accordingly. I assumed that success in my career would be a function of how hard I worked and how “smart” I was perceived to be. This may be a trope, but I am now fully converted to the camp of soft skills and being a team player. In any engineering firm (or probably any company), the problems being solved are often so constrained that there is no single correct answer. There are multiple acceptable solutions and multiple points of view on how to define the success of the system. Engaging with people meaningfully and managing conversations, personalities, and points of view have served me better than a lot of my technical coursework.  

Is there a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
I feel like I have made very meaningful technical contributions to Ford products via my ‘day job’ but I am most proud of my leadership role in our talent acquisition space. One arm of Ford’s recruiting system is university recruiting, which is composed of teams of alumni who volunteer to return to their alma mater and collect resumes and promote the company and our products. For most of the target universities, like the University of Michigan, the volunteers who lead these teams are in the upper tiers of management, with maybe hundreds of people reporting to them and decades of leadership experience. After only two seasons of recruiting on the team, I was appointed the cross-functional lead, and I am responsible for organizing our engineering recruitment effort at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for multiple organizations. In support of this team, I am mentored by a Vice President who is both female and a graduate of CMU. Leading the team and having a role in the hiring of college graduates and interns has been a massive responsibility and a fantastic learning experience. 

We often talk about girls developing their voice at Ellis, what does that mean to you? How do you use your voice?
I participate in a female-focused mentoring circle at work, and a topic that comes up often is younger employees being afraid to speak up in big meetings to get clarification, defend their opinions or conclusions, and challenge the status quo. I have never once felt shame or fear around voicing my perspective and actively soliciting feedback or clarification on technical or corporately-political topics. I fully attribute this to the discussion-based learning at Ellis and the way the teachers respected and encouraged our perspectives as individuals from a young age. 

Can you share a time in your life when you have been particularly brave or bold?
When my friend asked me to join the racing team he was forming, my first instinct was: I have no idea how to work on cars and I am physically incapable of driving a car at its limits with a bunch of other drivers around me. He insisted that they needed my project management skills and I could learn the rest. They offered me a safe space to learn (and mess up!) when it came to wrenching on the car, and we scheduled some test days so I could learn performance driving. At most I had one cumulative hour of experience on a track going into our first race. I think I was visibly shaking in my fire suit and helmet as my teammates tightened my belts and shipped me off. Three years and many races later, I still only come to the realization that I *can* drive a car on a racetrack after I’ve completed my first lap.

For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
When I compare my high school memories and experiences to those of my colleagues, I am astounded by the number of opportunities and initiatives that exist at Ellis and the quality of the mentoring I received from my teachers. Whether you are a person who likes to try a hundred different things, or if you are a person who takes one thing at a time, really work at finding something that makes you happy. It could become a career, a hobby, or just singing the alto part of old Glee Club songs at the top of your lungs in traffic to decompress. Capitalize on the energy and opportunities around you and share your passions unabashedly with your classmates. 

What do you think are the advantages to Ellis’ all-girls environment?
In order to prepare for a role at Ford, I googled and watched YouTube videos on the mechanical basics of the system I was assigned to support. When I demonstrated this knowledge to a colleague, they seemed shocked and asked if my “dad was a gearhead,” as if that was the only explanation for my practical engine knowledge. This type of gendered assumption and the hurtful implications that surround it (Am I qualified to do X? Does he know more about Y?) does not exist in an all-girls learning environment. Every example you have of leadership and every opportunity to learn from your peers is by women for women. I did not realize how powerful that was until I entered a male-dominated environment. 

How do you spend your free time?
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of my time watching Netflix with my cats and eating my way through the New York Times cooking app, but my ongoing hobby since moving to Michigan has been racing a 1997 BMW 318ti in an amateur endurance series called Champ Car with some friends from work. I am also trying to get into backpacking and have recently traveled to Iceland and New Zealand with my partner, Trevor. 

If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I think I’d interview one of the framers of the Constitution, bring a curated list of questions from experts, and make a very controversial podcast out of it. 

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Excitable. Detail-oriented. Reliable. 


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