This edition of The Power Women of the Wiring Harness Industry features Diana Zielonka.
Diana Zielonka is a ‘Power Woman’ in the wire harness industry. She is currently employed at Fiat Chrysler’s Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan but her path started many miles South in Honduras.
Although Diana’s father worked as an electronics technician while she was a kid, he did not involve her in any of his task-related activities. However, her dad did enlist support from her brothers with electrical and home improvement activities. Even though he had a mechanical, problem-solving mind, her dad was also the parent that brought her and her two younger brothers to elementary school every day. Her mother, on the other hand, was an accounting manager at a large Honduras bank. She had the prestigious title and was the main breadwinner of their family. From a young age, Diana knew that she wanted to have an esteemed career similar to that of her mother’s.
Because she liked math, Diana was leaning toward Finance as a college major. However, her mother advised her to alternatively consider engineering because Diana was ‘much too curious’ to pursue Finance. Diana then changed course. She considered attending a well-renowned public engineering school, but the school was associated with negative scheduling issues. Instead, she attended the most highly ranked engineering school in the country Universidad Tecnologica de Centroamericana (UNITEC). Even though it was a private college and part of a global university system, Diana cautions that it was not like attending a private college in the United States.
UNITEC offered three engineering majors at that time—Information Technology (IT), Industrial Engineering (IE), and Civil Engineering (CE). Diana chose IE with a focus in automation—textiles and quality were the other areas of emphasis. There were about eight females in the program of about 25 total students. She and the other females fit in well and did not perceive any obstacles related to their gender.
Diana was recruited at UNITEC by Empire Electronics, a wire harness manufacturer. She was hired as a Program Engineer with responsibility for release engineering, APQP, and launch activities. She remembers wanting to utilize her automation education, then quickly learned that wire harness assembly has a very manual build method. Still, she was able to use her skills to create better electrical test features and preferred quality designs. She appreciated that Empire was flexible and open to new ideas. While she enjoyed working in different areas of the business, she also indicated that she faced some struggles as a female in the manufacturing environment in a Honduras factory.
After working in Honduras for a year, Empire transferred Diana to their Troy, Michigan headquarter office. In Troy, she was an Advanced Program Engineer, a liaison between the Honduras facility and Empire’s customer base. She held this role for about 5 years. Then, a previous colleague of Diana’s advised her that FCA was looking for an English/Spanish bilingual wire harness engineer at their Auburn Hills, Michigan technical center. Diana was hired, and became the NAFTA lead in Supplier Quality at FCA for wire harnessing. This position involved management and distribution of Lessons Learned documentation and USCAR-21 education communication. She was in the position for about 1 year, then also took on responsibilities as SQE for electrical and chassis components like the electro-mechanical shifters, power distribution centers and instrument clusters. She held the position from ~2013 through 2016. Subsequently, Diana was promoted to Supervisor of Supplier Quality within the Powertrain team. She remembers being nervous about moving to a role outside of wire harnessing as the role was more mechanical and she was not experienced in engine components or processes. She nonetheless performed well. In 2019, Diana became the Engineering Program Manager of the e-Torque system in the Electrified Powertrain team. With all of the emphasis on emissions reduction and more fuel-efficient vehicles, she expected that hybrid and electric technology would be an exciting area in which to work.
Diana advised that FCA also has an initiative to highlight empowered women in the workforce. She was recently honored to be one of 25 FCA females chosen within North America to be part of the first ever Women’s Leadership Experience in 2018. This program focuses on developing and empowering women in the organization utilizing training, coaching and executive sponsorship. As a graduate of this program, Diana continues supporting the program as a mentor for the next phase of selectees.
As far as Diana’s opinion of females in engineering, she believes that engineering is very flexible and engineers are needed in many different industries. One can stay technical or move in to program management or business. She views there to be endless opportunities. As Diana was raised in a country where engineering was uncommon for females, she felt that an engineering degree granted her initial respect that she then solidified with strong job performance. Like her mother, Diana is a power woman, just on the technical side in her case.
Thank you, Diana, for supporting and promoting engineering among females. Your advancement is testament to the opportunities that exist for females in engineering.
If you are interested in sharing the stories but missed the original WHN distribution, the articles are available on the Jana Diversity Solutions web- site at www.janadiversity.com, or at wiringharnessnews.com.
If you know a female engineer who would make a great candidate to feature in the Power Women series, please direct them to me at [email protected]