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Photo Courtesy of Continental.
Women’s voices matter in the automotive industry. That’s something Vivian Swan truly believes — and it’s something she’s been assured of as a member of the supportive culture at Continental.
As a Test and Development Engineer, she’s working to make intersections and infrastructure safer for everyone including automated vehicles on Continental’s Intelligent Intersection project. It’s an important project and she’s frequently reminded her input is especially important.
“My current Project Manager has been extremely influential… He has been really great at encouraging me to speak out and make my voice heard,” Swan said. “He’s provided me with opportunities to take ownership over my work, which has been so appreciated.”
Supportive colleagues aren’t the only great part of Swan’s role. As a gearhead, she loves the work she does. And as a lifelong learner, she loves the opportunities to grow the company always provides. But those aren’t the only things she has found fulfilling in her career.
We spoke to Swan about how she’s designed a career she loves and the advice she has for women who want a career in the industry. She also shared what makes a great leader and why Continental is the premier place to be at any stage of your career.
How long have you been at Continental, and what about it first made you want to join?
I’ve been with Continental for three years now. Since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to work in the automotive industry. After graduating from college as a Mechanical Engineer, I decided to move to Michigan to pursue a career in the automotive industry. Continental contacted me about a position as a Test Engineer. During my interview process, they talked a lot about working with innovative technology and always being met with new challenges, which was really exciting to me. I also liked that they offered the opportunity to learn.
Tell me a little about your role and what a typical day looks like.
I am a Test and Development Engineer, so every day looks a little different for me. Most mornings start with a stand-up meeting where we talk through our outstanding projects. We work with employees in all areas of the world, so it’s important we are on the same page. I spend a lot of time in the field often at infrastructure test sites. I love the variety and never feel like I’m bored. I’m always learning something new or dealing with new challenges. It keeps me very active and I love that I have the freedom and trust to set my own schedule.
What project or projects are you currently working on, and what about this work most excites you?
I’m currently working on the Intelligent Intersection project which helps make intersections and infrastructure as a whole smarter to prevent crashes and assist automated and connected vehicles. This work helps keep our roads safer and more efficient, and ultimately saves lives. We’re dealing with two fields that have historically existed in parallel — infrastructure and vehicles — so it’s really exciting to be a part of the two worlds coming together. I’ve been a part of shaping this project from the very beginning and I’m really proud to be a part of something that’s going to help save lives.
Have you had to face any obstacles working in a historically male-dominated industry?
99% of the time I’ve felt that I’ve had an equal opportunity, regardless of gender. It’s really unusual at Continental to run into any of that sort of bias. I’ve never felt like being a woman made a difference but have always felt supported and that the team was happy to have a woman in the room.
What resources or programs have allowed you to always continue learning?
Continental offers a variety of learning opportunities, including online courses, internal software academies and leadership training. They are always super supportive of you learning new skills.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
My proudest moment while at Continental was winning the Automotive Gold Award in 2019 for my work with Intelligent Intersections. Just 12 projects get selected from all projects within Continental globally, so I was very proud to receive it.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Trust is the best quality you can ask for in a boss or manager. If you’ve got a leader who really trusts you to get the job done, it can be really empowering.
What is your favorite aspect of the culture at Continental?
It's super supportive and accepting of people from all walks of life. Continental is headquartered in Germany, but we have locations all over the world, so you’re always getting the opportunity to work with people from other cultures. It’s amazing that we’re all working for one Continental and towards one larger goal.
What’s next for your career?
I really love my job now and I feel really fortunate — not everyone loves their job. I think eventually I would love to become a Project Manager and be able to help others succeed.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a huge gearhead, so even when I’m not at work, I’m always working on cars. I’m really into the Japanese domestic market, so I enjoy working on Subarus, Hondas, and Toyotas.
What advice do you have for women looking to start a career in the automotive industry?
You’re smarter than you think you are and your voice really matters in this industry. If we really want to create innovative, industry-leading technology, we need women’s perspectives, creativity and attention to detail. Women need to recognize that we have so much to offer to the automotive industry.
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