Chief engineer, senior manager, Honda Development and Manufacturing of America
Big break: Gaining upper management approval to lead the business development of Honda's new U.S. wind tunnel facility
Annie Boh started working for Honda in 2003 after graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in aerospace engineering. At the time, she didn't realize that her technical depth, coupled with what she describes as a "tenacious grit," would enable her to pursue two paths: engineering and leadership.
But recognizing this did not happen overnight. It took co-spearheading the development of Honda's $124 million wind tunnel near Marysville, Ohio, which can generate wind speeds as high as 193 mph. The tunnel will help Honda create aerodynamic vehicles, reduce wind and road noise and give its racing teams a competitive edge when tuning cars.
Boh started as a wind and noise engineer on the automaker's exterior performance team, an important part of transitioning a new vehicle from concept to production that ensures the performance of exterior components. The team examined "wind noise, water leaks on doors, the opening and closing of the sunroof — anything that the customer touched."
Doing her job required wind tunnels to test the viability of products. But at the time, Honda had no wind tunnels of its own.
It relied on a facility owned by another automaker in Northern California, and after that, it leveraged a wind tunnel owned by the auto design firm Pininfarina.
In 2008, Boh took an assignment in Japan working with wind and noise engineering counterparts.
It was there she recognized how beneficial a North American wind tunnel would be.
But upon returning to U.S. duty, she transitioned out of direct engineering work and into leadership roles. Boh was promoted from engineer to group leader in 2010 and to assistant manager in 2012.
She continued to think through her wind tunnel idea. And in 2014, Boh and a colleague "went down the path of justifying and developing a business case for a wind tunnel in North America for Honda," she said. "It was basically a series of 'nobody told us no,' so we kept going.
"And then eventually the response transitioned from 'nobody said no' to 'yes, please,' and we kept with it."
Boh, who describes herself as a "fast-paced, high work-ethic person," found the time to get her MBA from Ohio State and have her first child during that period, while also leading a bigger team by day and pursuing the wind tunnel side project.
By the time the tunnel got approval in 2017, there still were a lot of design details to finalize. In 2020, the wind tunnel development team transitioned to an established full-time status. Boh was elevated to her current role as senior manager and chief engineer, while her colleague took the reins of the wind tunnel project.
"I've completely transitioned out of the wind tunnel world, and though my business unit is still using it, it's not my day job anymore," Boh said.
She was one of three speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the opening of the wind tunnel in March.
"I don't know what path I'll take in the next couple of years," Boh said. "But I know for sure that I'm going to be working to positively influence and empower the lives of the people around me.
"What still excites me about the wind tunnel is that it's going to be used for decades to come. It's a world-class facility that our engineers will use to bring the future of Honda."
— Carly Schaffner