Yansong Chen is Senior Vice President of Electrification Strategy & Technology at Ricardo. She has worked in the automotive industry for over 20 years and was recently named one of Automotive News’ Rising Stars 2022. Here she provides an insight into what inspires her and how she sees the industry shaping up in the future.
Yansong Chen, Senior Vice President of Electrification Strategy & Technology
Tell us a little about your career?
I’m second generation automotive, both my parents worked as executives at FAW, a state-owned automobile manufacturer headquartered in Changchun. So, I was always destined to follow in their footsteps into automotive to be a part of the industry advancement.
Prior to joining the Ricardo family just over two years ago, I worked for Delphi, starting as a college co-op student, and working my way up through the business to become Director of Global Program Management & Engineering. During this time, I saw many transformations in the business and in my specialist area of electronics and controls – the industry itself has also evolved and changed considerably over this time. After Delphi, I decided I wanted a new challenge where I could utilise all my experience, but also be at the forefront of technology and innovation moving forward. Ricardo was a perfect fit.
I’d known Ricardo for quite a few years and knew about some of the projects that Ricardo had been involved in, specifically a hybrid vehicle programme whilst I was at Delphi. I really enjoyed that experience and was very impressed by the Ricardo team, their expertise and work philosophy, so when the opportunity came to lead the North American Engineering team and, more specifically, help transform the business’ electrification strategy, I was delighted to take it.
What does a typical day look like at Ricardo?
There’s no such thing as a typical day at Ricardo. My role is incredibly varied and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. It’s a very dynamic and upbeat environment. As consultants and engineers, we’re incredibly client centric and being able to advise, support and deliver tangible projects in order to help our clients achieve results across a broad spectrum of industries and areas is critical to our ongoing success.
An additional part of my role is in driving the strategic direction of the business by maximising opportunities in key target markets, such as hybridisation, and helping to grow our expertise, brand, and visibility on a global scale. This relates not only to our offer to clients, but also ensuring that we remain at the forefront of our industry by ensuring that we are structured with the right people and skills base. It’s important that I am impactful in my ability to future proof Ricardo, helping others in the business to upgrade their skills – something which I find very fulfilling.
What, or who inspired you in your early career?
I was born and raised in China, and my parents have always been my biggest inspiration. They both played a big part in helping to nurture my passion in engineering. My mother was one of the first female engineers from China to travel to the US as part of a Scholar programme. She is still an active and leading figure in her specialist field in traditional manufacturing process. Alongside my father, she encouraged me to follow my passion and, when the time came, relocate to the US to make the most of global opportunities in the automotive sector. We speak every week and often discuss about how the industry has changed from when they both started their careers, and how it continues to evolve.
We all feel passionately about the legacy we are part of, and how our own careers have helped to shape the industry. For me, it’s also important that I continue to nurture the next generation who will follow me.
How did the Award come about, what does it mean to be recognised?
I was honoured to be nominated for the award by Marques McCammon, and obviously I was delighted to win. I believe inspiring the next generation of engineers is important, and it’s something that I feel passionately about. I’ve been a mentor for many years and involved in the INFORM AutomotiveNEXT Executive Committee to support up and coming people in the industry. I was also involved supporting a two-week summer intern programme through INFORM, where over 100 students were able to access advice and support
What do you believe will be the biggest influences in the industry in the next 3-5 years?
It becomes more and more challenging to create an industry roadmap for automotive for the next few years because the pace of change is incredible. It’s unprecedented, with new technology and systems. It’s clear that electrification will be a crucial factor, yet we also must consider what the future of software defined mobility, digital and hydrogen technology will be – megatrends have their own cycle, but there are several microtrends influencing design and engineering.
Developments in autonomous vehicles aren’t just about the technology, but it’s also about use case for a new lifestyle. How new technology integrates seamlessly with existing infrastructure. We need more intelligence and talents from eco-systems to help develop this further.
What are your ambitions?
I’m on a mission to continually contribute, lead and be impactful within the mobility industry. It’s a global business and I’m aware that I have a responsibility to help shape the future of mobility, whilst also enabling future talent to have the opportunity to influence the industry.
And finally, what do you do outside of work to relax and unwind?
Having time and space away from work for your personal wellbeing is incredibly important. I do a lot of yoga and pilates which really helps me to reset and think more clearly. Everyone needs some sort of release, whether that’s meditation, sport or reading, which is another pastime I really enjoy.