Megan the Automotive Engineer


Image provided by Megan


I knew when I started this blog that I wanted to give more of a voice to other amazing women, especially in engineering. When thinking about potential guests, my mind immediately went to the amazing Megan, a friend who I made through the Engineering Gals Instagram page. It was perfect, since she was also one of the reasons I was inspired to hit "publish" on my website!


What a perfect way to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day as well, by featuring an incredibly inspirational gal!


We ended up speaking about topics other than engineering, such as “adulting” and using social media to connect with likeminded people. Also, how cool is it that she's an automotive engineer working for Ford? I'm quite attached to Ford, especially growing up with our iconic 1997 green Ford Explorer, and so it's incredible seeing how Megan's interest in Ford has led her to some pretty amazing opportunities.


Megan is such a cool individual, not only because of her career and travel experience, but also due to her outlook on life. She offered so much insight into her life as a graduate engineer, as well as some tidbits about her incredible blog. She’s all about helping students and adults alike manage their finances, and everyone could definitely learn something from her.


Megan was recently featured as part of the 1 Million Women in STEM campaign, which you can find HERE

MEGAN AS A YOUNG ENGINEER

Why don't you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Megan, and I am currently 24 years old. I work at Ford Motor Company as a powertrain calibration engineer. I’ve been passionate about automotive since high school! My dad's an engineer, so I learned how to change my oil and do maintenance on cars, and I just really liked seeing how everything works together, mechanically. Being able to actually visualize what you're working on really clicked with me.

In high school, I really liked calculus and physics (I was one of the weird people), so I ended up doing mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana.


Back in high school, I didn't really have any girl friends that wanted to do engineering or anything technical, so I came to Purdue and lived on a floor of girls that were all in engineering. I felt like I found my people, where we could get it done in the classroom and have fun outside of it as well. We could be normal and social, but also smart and career-oriented. That's how my story started out.

My story at Ford started when I got an internship there after my junior year. I love Ford, and I've always wanted to work there. I just really like the company, the mission, the products, and everything they do. I was super pumped to land the internship there and loved it. Now, I'm at Ford full-time doing a post-graduate rotational program, meaning I have four different jobs over the course of two years, all within powertrain.

I'm currently on my second rotation working on the new F-150 launch which is really exciting but also a little stressful sometimes.

Was there a moment in your life when you knew you wanted to do engineering?

I don't know if there was really a specific moment, but I remember my first car. I still drive it now actually, it's a 2004 Ford Escape. It's old and a piece of crap by most people's standards, but I just love the thing. When I was 16, I was excited about getting to pick out my own car and doing all the research and whatnot. I also learned a lot about engineering because of that car and certain issues with it we've had to fix. I just became attached to it, we’ve been through so much together.

I just remember when my parents bought their Ford Escape- brand new- when I was in 8th Grade. I was also learning how to drive at that time and I remember thinking, "Wow, I really like this car."

So I got an Escape of my own and kind of became a big Ford nerd- I started following the company and learned about the trucks, what they're doing in the industry, and all of their new technology. It's just a car that nobody cares about, but I would say that's the reason I wanted to be an automotive engineer, do mechanical engineering, and work for Ford specifically. I would say that, along with finding my people in college, reiterated the fact that engineering was the right thing for me.

What was the most challenging part of your college experience?

The most challenging part of it, really, was all of it. You'll face adversity and setbacks and some things aren't going to come easy to you. In high school, things were easy for me. I took all the honors classes, I would do my homework, and never really have to study. Then, I came to engineering school and I got my first C ever… in Physics 1. I remember feeling so defeated in that class and wondering how in the world I was gonna do Mechanical Engineering if I failed basic physics.

Image provided by Megan


Then, my sophomore year, I failed the only circuits class that mechanical engineers have to take. I ended up re-taking it that summer and got an A-minus somehow.

I just kind of built my confidence back up from there and got involved in more student organizations, and learned more leadership skills and people skills. All of that combined just helped me through it. Not much of engineering school came naturally to me, so I had to learn how to ask for help and work with others instead of sitting in my dorm not knowing what's happening. It's really about learning how you learn and if it doesn't come naturally, you don't quit. Unless you're one of the like five people in engineering that are really smart, you're not going to get it all the first time, and that's totally normal!

You went to China as an undergraduate, how cool! Can you tell us more about that?

China was huge for me! First of all, I'm from a small town in Indiana, went to school in Indiana, and had never been outside of the United States before. Not even Canada! I think that flight to Shanghai was literally the third time I've ever been on a plane in my life.

Image provided by Megan


Purdue just made it so easy to go, and I went with 39 other people in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue. We all flew over together, took classes together, lived together, and so that felt like a safety blanket for me. I felt like I grew so much as a person just from experiencing that different culture and being uncomfortable with things such as not knowing where you are- not knowing where you are, or how to read signs, or not being able to speak to anybody.

I still talk about all the crazy stuff we did even now, and it's been 3 years which is wild! That made me love travelling, experiencing new things, and taught me how to be uncomfortable with standing out in a crowd. I remember looking back on my first day in China when we were on the flight home and thinking, “That changed me a lot.”

What would you say was the most valuable thing that you took from that experience?

I became so much more open-minded. I think that's the biggest thing I learned. A big thing for me was understanding where peoples' culture comes from. We have a lot of international students at Purdue, especially from Asia, and a lot of us look at certain things they do and think it’s weird. Then you go to a different country, and you're the one that's doing things that are weird!

There are a lot of similarities with people from different cultures and countries, but also a lot of differences. However, the differences really aren't that different. All people need to sleep, need to work, and they need to eat. It's the way that we do those things that is different. It's cool to learn about the other ways people do those basic life things!

LIFE AS AN AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEER


What exactly do you do as an automotive engineer and tell us a bit more about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm in a post-grad rotational program. I have four rotations that are all 6 to 9 months long, that are all within a home group. For me, that group is powertrain.

One of your rotations has to be in manufacturing on a new vehicle launch, which is where I am now. I'm temporarily relocated in Kansas City, at one of the plants where we build F-150s and Transit vans. I'm on the powertrain launch team for the new 2021 F-150, so I can't say too much about it since we haven't revealed it to the public yet. We act as the interface between the actual engineers that work on the components and the manufacturing side putting them all together.

My specific role is end of line, which are all the tests the truck has to pass before we can ship it to the customer. Let's say the truck sets an engine code at end of line, and we have to figure out how to push it through and get that issue figured out ASAP. It's not as much "hardcore engineering" as you would think. It's more like program management; connecting the right people with the right information to get things done fast.

Launches are really important and challenging because there are so many people coming together in one final product. There's so much going on, so we're there to help get things done smoothly and on time, so it can be kind of stressful.

My actual engine calibration job that I'll be going back to after this rotation involves a lot of in-vehicle testing. We're the ones that plug our computers into the truck, take data from drive cycles, and calibrate everything that goes into the engine. Everything from emissions, performance, fuel economy, and driveability all are the calibration teams’ responsibility. We set the fuel injection timing, pressures, air mass, and all these other parameters to get the vehicle to meet its targets. It's mind-blowing, and very technical, but it's cool and I’m learning a lot.

Image provided by Megan


Another perk of being a calibrator is getting to actually drive the prototype trucks and go on test trips. We calibrate for altitude, heat, cold, etc. So we get to go to Denver and hitch 30,000 lb trailers on the back of SuperDutys and tow them up and down mountains. It's scary but exciting! We get paid to drive brand new products and basically destroy them, which is pretty cool.

It's easy to get desensitised to your job, especially when you're frustrated that something isn’t working right, and spending so many hours trying to figure it out. Then, some random person at a drive thru while you’re on a test trip sees your camo-d vehicle and asks what you’re doing. You tell them, and they’re always like "Wow, your job is so cool, how do I do that?"

Those kind of moments really make you take a step back and think about how cool your job really is, despite the challenges.

What's your favourite thing about working for Ford?

It’s really cool working for a huge brand that everybody knows, and seeing products that you've worked on drive down the down the road. Ford makes the best selling truck in America and it's really cool to have that pride.

As an intern, I did a little bit of transmission calibration on the new 10-speed that goes in the SuperDuty that just launched this past year. It's cool because I can say, "I did this tiny little thing as an intern but I know the whole team that calibrated the entire transmission." Then seeing those vehicles roll down the road and reading articles about the thing you worked on is pretty exciting. Just knowing the team behind the product is really cool.

Before joining Ford, what was some of your internship experience?

My first internship after my freshman year was back at home at this tiny little independent design contracting place. I actually hated it. I was the only intern, and really the only person in the office besides my boss and the lady who did the books. I was just doing CAD (Computer Aided Design) at my desk all day and I had no idea what I was doing. There wasn't really anybody there to talk to or learn from, besides the guy who owned the company, and I didn't want to annoy him all the time with my questions.

I knew I wanted a bigger company with more people to interface with, because I'm an extrovert- I like talking to people and bouncing ideas off of them. I didn't just want to be a CAD person. So I thought, "what else do engineers do besides CAD all day?" It turns out, they can do a lot, actually.

The summer after that I actually didn't have an internship because I had to take some classes so I stayed on campus. I waited tables part-time and I had a research job part-time. That, plus my tiny first internship and some leadership positions in student orgs, gave me enough experience to work for Ford the summer after that. So I interned there for the next two summers and then got the full-time job. I was really lucky to get my first choice before I graduated.

GOING ONLINE WITH MEGAN MAKES SENSE


You have a blog, Megan Makes Sense, where you speak about life as a college graduate, and also give us some financial advice. Tell us more about it and why you decided to start it?

Basically, I started my new job at Ford, I was renting a room with a friend in her house, thinking about buying a new car, and I was trying to figure out my 401k and what I should be doing with my money. Now that I actually had real money since I got my first “big girl” job.

I listened to a lot of podcasts on my commute and had heard about Dave Ramsey, so I just played one of his shows one day. It became a habit that every day on my way home from work, I’d put on Dave. Listening to his advice and hearing all these stories from people about what to do with their money, it was common sense stuff that resonated with me. I ended up getting super passionate about personal finances.

I felt like there were so many things I've learned throughout college and the first year of working, about how to get a job, how to act in the office, why you should keep driving your older car and not have a car payment, and how to figure out your retirement planning. I just wanted to share it with people and help them.

I've seen so many of my friends waste so much money by renting super expensive apartments, buying cars they couldn't afford, or going to the bar every weekend. I was really trying to find a way to be intentional with what I was doing with my money and in life. I wanted a platform where I could share that advice and my tips for general post-grad millennial things.

Image provided by Megan

When I studied abroad in China, so many people told me to do a blog, so I decided to set one up for free with wordpress.com and LOVED it. So I wasn’t totally new to blogging when I started meganmakessense.com. One weekend out in Kansas City, I started it up and came up with the name "Megan Makes Sense," because I like to say that I'm a person that does things that make sense. I try to be intentional in life and always try to have a reason for why I do the things that I do. So the name kind of fit and gave me a wide variety of topics to talk about.

It kind of came naturally to me and I'm trying to figure out the whole marketing and business side of blogging. I really just wanted a place to help walk people through things that we don't get taught in school. Nobody teaches you about money, or taxes, or how cars are depreciating assets, and why you should track your net worth. Those are all things that young adults need to learn.


I have that platform now and it's really cool just getting to connect with other people. It's been fun, and recently because of the whole work-from-home thing, I've had a ton more time to work on it.

Any big things that you have planned for the blog?

Nothing too crazy yet, but I've actually been doing this challenge that one of my other friends on Instagram is doing. It's called "50 to Finish" and you set 5 small goals to do every day for 50 days. One of my goals is writing 150 words for the blog every day, so that's actually caused me to have four posts already written that I haven't made public yet.

I think doing that little thing every day will help me be more consistent, especially when work gets crazy. I'd like to keep up with the consistency thing and learn how to monetize it without being super influencer-y, you know?

I obviously want to grow as a blogger and on Instagram and it's weird because I feel like those terms kind of have a negative connotation. I'm not your everyday fashion blogger or anything. I’m just navigating the best way to reach people that actually want to hear what I have to say and being consistent with it. We'll see how it goes when I go back to the office and have a real life again!

What are your top three tips?

I love this question. If you are younger or just getting started with taking your money more seriously, the most important thing is to live below your means. That might mean looking for roommates if you're still young and can get away with it, not eating takeout every night, and buying used vehicles. Have money left over every month!

Besides living below your means, here are my top 3 tips:

1. Invest in your retirement plan, right away. If you have an employer match at your 401k, contribute at least that much to get the match. If you don't have a match, open a Roth IRA. Even if you just contribute like $50-$100 a month right now, open a Roth IRA to contribute to retirement. Then, work toward getting your retirement investing up to 15% of your income.

2. Do not buy a new car. They depreciate so fast. If you’re young and single, you don't need to be buying a brand new third row SUV that you can't afford (seriously, someone I know did this). If you have an older car, learn how to do basic maintenance and try to keep driving it as long as you safely can. If you need to buy a car, I have a whole used car buying guide on my blog. Cars go way down in value, don't ball out with a car.

3. Make a plan to pay off your student loans or any debt that you have quickly. Debt just eats away at your income every month and then you've suddenly got so much less money to actually put towards your financial goals. The sooner you get rid of it, the better.


For me, I'll hopefully be debt free in a year with my student loans. So now, I'm taking advantage of how low my living expenses are right now, because I'm renting with roommates, don't have a new car, and meal prep so I don’t eat out as much. As you get married and have kids, everything gets more expensive. This is the cheapest you're ever going to live in your life, so take advantage of it. Pay off your debt, start investing for retirement, and don’t buy a new car.

What are some things that you’ve noticed or enjoyed since starting your social media journey?

We need to do a better job of teaching people how to spend their money wisely and save. Something I think that’s so cool about Instagram in particular is that you can just build self-education into your day by following certain accounts. If you want to learn about money, there are so many accounts that teach you about it. There are so many other people out there on similar journeys as you, and it’s cool to connect and share tips!

I literally had somebody DM me and they were saying "I'm super interested in auto engineering and I've got a political science degree but realized it wasn't super useful. I want to go to engineering school. So what's your job like and what do you do?" I think it's really cool being able to connect with people that are doing what you want to do or what you're interested in and just being able to learn from them. It's so easy!

What's been your favourite post to write on your blog?


This is so hard. I actually think my favorite post that I have up right now is called "Graduated College? Here's How To Set Up Your Finances." It's basically a checklist of the things you should do once you graduate and are on your own maybe for the first time.

There are links to my other posts that teach you how to budget, how to open a Roth IRA, easy meal prep recipes. It’s just got a lot of good stuff packed into one post.

Do you have any resources that you'd like to share?

I have a free budgeting template on my blog! You just have to subscribe to my blog via email, and you'll get a welcome email with a password, and then you can access and download it. I’m working on some more free (and maybe not-so-free;)) resources so stay tuned! I’m a huge Excel nerd, so I love making spreadsheets to help you track things to reach your goals!

ADVICE FOR FUTURE ENGINEERS AND WOMEN IN STEM


Do you ever feel like you're treated differently as a woman in STEM and does it help to have networks around you?

I can't think of a specific time where I felt like I was treated differently or I felt belittled or something just because I was a woman. I have felt kind of out of place before when I’m in a group of girls who are in more “traditionally feminine” careers. I think that stigma is changing, and I think that's really awesome.

I have heard a lot at work about how we need more women in leadership roles. Especially in powertrain, there are literally no women, and people have told me that there are great opportunities for women at Ford for leadership.

Image provided by Megan


It just makes me think, "I want to be in that position because I'm qualified and not just because I want to meet some affirmative action diversity target."

Yes, we need to support women in leadership, but we don't just want to pick somebody because she’s a woman. I think it’s important to have those opportunities for women, but at the end of the day, we just want the best person for the job. I think that's the only time that I've really felt like, "Woah, I'm a woman and in engineering there are no women."

Having a community is definitely so important. So find your people! They don't have to be all women. But it’s nice finding the one girl in your office and being like, "Okay, cool. Let's talk about The Bachelorette for once over lunch and not just about work."

Finding that outlet and having other things to talk about besides what you're doing at work is important. Work is a big part of your life, but it is not your life.

Also know that it's okay to be feminine too. I like having my nails painted, getting my hair done, and wearing makeup. You don't have to try to fit in with the guys or be “masculine” just because you're a woman in a male-dominated field, so definitely own that.

Do you have any advice for women in engineering?

Find a community and try not to second-guess yourself so much. I know as women, we're more prone to doing that. I still sometimes feel very insecure in my job and I have no idea what I'm doing. Just remember that you're there for a reason and you are smart and you are capable.

Even if you feel like you have no idea what's going on, it's okay, because other people feel that way too. Even guys feel that way, they just don't show it. They just think that they're the smartest person in the room, while the women tend to shrink back. Definitely don't be afraid to use your voice, state your opinion and just be confident. It's hard to do, but the more you learn, and "fake it till you make it," the better off you'll be.

What is the best way to build up your confidence?

I think for me, it helps talking to other people and working on things you actually enjoy. I've heard a statistic about people who felt insecure in the classroom or didn’t feel as smart as their peers. When they talk to somebody outside of their major or outside of their class about what they’re learning, it builds their confidence. This is because they're able to explain something they're doing at a high-level to others. Bonus points if you’re passionate about it, that shows through!

It helps having that shift in perspective. For me, I'll talk to my boyfriend about what I’m doing at work, and he'll say, "Oh wow, that's so hard," because his work is different. A lot of my friends from home that aren’t engineers think that I’m some crazy-smart person because I’ve learned some stuff about automotive powertrains. Then you'll realize, "Okay, I am learning, I am doing better, this mistake is not the end of the world."

Image provided by Megan


My dad's an engineer too, so I'm able to talk to him about my work. It's good to have a mentor that you trust, whether that's one of your parents, a friend, or somebody at work. Just talking about something that’s bothering you and saying, "Hey, I feel stupid today." You're not stupid, but it's okay to feel like you are sometimes. Then, you have that perspective shift and you find something else you could try or something you want to learn, and then you get back after it!

Do you have any advice for someone looking to become an engineer in the automotive industry?

Go for it. Don't let people tell you what you can or can't do. For example, if you had one teacher that told you you were bad at math, then screw them and do it anyway.

Learn how to work hard. When I was in college, our academic advisors always told us that it's not necessarily how smart you are, or how smart you think you are, it’s about who has the work ethic and persistence to get through the difficult course load.

So don't quit, unless you absolutely hate it. If you love it but it's hard, then that's normal. There may be classes that you don't like, such as for me, I hated controls and the electrical classes but I really loved machine design and thermodynamics. Just learn about the parts of your major that you like and don't worry so much about the ones that you don't.

I would say work hard, ask for help, do your homework, study with friends, and don't freak out too much about the small stuff.

You were on the recruitment squad for Ford, do you have any tips for networking?

Recruiting is so cool, because you're picking the next generation of people. We want you to be a good student, but we also want you to know how to work with others and how to talk to people. Be somebody who wants to learn and has a positive attitude. That's the biggest thing.

A great thing that you can do at a career fair if you're wanting to be an intern or get your first full-time job, is to be passionate about what you're doing and do a little bit of research before you go talk to that company.

So many people come up to us and they’re like, "I want to work at Ford because I love cars." Everybody loves cars, so what is something unique that gets you excited about Ford specifically? Maybe it's a new product we're putting out, or some kind of work you could see yourself doing.

But if you come by and tell me, "I love the Mustang," that's not very unique because everybody does. Just having some kind of idea of what you would like to do or what you're excited about in industry really will set you apart for sure.

Advice for new jobs?

When you graduate college, you feel like you've spent four years learning how to do a certain thing, and at the same time, feel like you learned nothing. You learn so much on the job that school could never teach you. School gives you the fundamentals, but it's a whole different learning curve when you're in an office or a corporate environment.

I remember my first week at Ford, just trying to find my way around. I was in the dynamometer lab, and I didn't even know how to get to G-wing, and went in the wrong door for the first couple of days. I just felt so dumb. You get past that though, and the more you transition and do those things, the better you get at it.

It's just like physics class, just get through it and you'll be fine. Also, remember that everybody started somewhere. I've put the wrong part number in an email and sent an email to the wrong person. You might feel dumb, but remember that you're moving forward, and it's okay to make mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes.

Do you have any tips for adulting?

I think the key to being an adult is figuring out what you value and what you enjoy, then cutting down on everything else. So for me, I'm not a huge makeup person, so I don't spend a lot of money on expensive makeup or clothes, but I'll spend money to travel, or to go to a good local restaurant once a week.

Figure out what matters to you, and then don't worry about the other stuff that doesn't. I’m not worried about not having a super nice car right now, I'm fine with my 16 year old car. Some people might think I’m weird because of it, but who cares?

Some people might value other things and spend their money differently. Say you really value Starbucks every morning. If you really value it, then build it into your budget and know that you're going to have cut somewhere else to fit it in. You might find that you don’t value Starbucks as much as you thought.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE


What’s next for you? Do you have any goals?

I'm such a goal-oriented person and it's crazy because life might not go the way you planned at age 24 and that's cool.

Something I've been thinking about with work is that I want to get into more of a business-y role one day. I want to come back and do the powertrain calibration thing for a few years to really understand the technical side, but I also want to understand our customers more. I want to blend those two things together to give our customers what they really want and make those higher-level decisions. I also want to keep doing the blog on the side and see where it takes me.

Image provided by Megan


In terms of travel, we wanted to go to Iceland this year in September, but with the whole debt-free thing, we put that off before coronavirus happened. I said, "Guys, I really want to save money, and I'll feel so much better going after I pay off my student loans. I won't be worried or feel guilty about spending." So travel is not totally out of the question, but once I'm debt-free I want to go to Iceland.


I also want to buy a house and get married one day! There are so many things, but we'll just have to see what life throws at me.


GET TO KNOW MEGAN

You can find Megan's blog HERE and her Instagram HERE


I'd just like to extend a massive thank you to Megan for taking the time to speak to me about her career and blog! I'm sure everyone will be able to learn a thing or two from her.


Happy International Women in Engineering Day!


Chrissy

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Mechanical Engineering student. Future space engineer. Writer. Runner. Passionate about getting more women into STEM.

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