Brianna Leonard, who oversees engineering and sound quality at supplier Harman International’s auto division, knows something about pressure. She also knows she likes it.
“You’re kind of sandwiched in the middle because you have all your sub-suppliers beneath that you have to manage and support,” said Leonard. “To me it’s one of the most competitive and challenging areas of the automotive industry, and I think that’s why it’s so much fun.”
Leonard manages a group of more than 500 employees and she aims to grow the division’s revenue substantially.
Oh, and there’s a bit more pressure. The mother of two has twins on the way.
Among the accomplishments Leonard is most proud of is the level of diversity she has created within her unit.
“It’s very hard to create diversity in the automotive industry, and so I think I’ve done a good job at recognizing unique strengths of individuals and then using them to complement each other on teams,” Leonard said. “And what that creates are efficient teams that accomplish more with less.”
After receiving a master’s degree in electromagnetics, the Michigan native joined Lear Corp. in 2004 as an electrical engineer. She became a program manager and in 2010, Leonard moved to A123 Systems, a lithium ion battery company. At A123 she tested automotive amplifiers and electronics to ensure that they are electromagnetically compatible in vehicles.
“It was a fairly new field at the time because a lot of the regulations and standards for electromagnetics were just coming on board,” she said.
In her current job, Leonard manages five departments: test and software validation, program management, sound quality benchmarking, general quality and value engineering.
A big challenge is ensuring that products brought to market are high-quality, scalable and technologically innovative.
“When you launch a product that exceeds expectations, that feeling, that winning — it’s a high,” said Leonard. “And for the next two years of struggle, you remember that high and it gets you through to the next win.”
— Anisa Jibrell