Kristal Fears, an engineer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), was recently awarded U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazines 2016 Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) Special Recognition Award, which recognizes high merit, broad impact on people and value to society as a whole.
Fears, who serves as Global Manufacturing Product Responsible, C-SUV Product, at FCA, said of the special honor, “I owe much of who I am and what I’ve accomplished to the strong people who saw my potential and inspired the choices I’ve made in my life and career. I know that it is both my responsibility and privilege to lead people, serve the community and inspire the next generation.”
She continued, “I am very appreciative of this recognition of my career accomplishments and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
A Detroit native, Fears recalls becoming interested in engineering early on. “At the age of 9, my math teacher said I should consider engineering as a career. Shortly after, my parents enrolled me in Saturday morning programs introducing young people to engineering and I fell in love with it,” she told TNJ.com in a recent interview.
At FCA, she is charged with working cross-functionally with engineers to manage tooling, facilities and equipment budgets and identifying and resolving manufacturing constraints. “My job is similar to that of a program manager. We have all these cool new vehicles we bring to the public and in order for us to do that we have to prepare our plant. That involves new tooling, facilities, equipment, etc. The rule is that for any new model launches or major product actions, we coordinate all of that activity at the plant. So that means working with a variety of groups to facilitate that,” she explains.
A member of two employee resource groups at FCA US, the Women’s Forum and African American Employee Network, she has been a volunteer and supporter of the March of Dimes and has supported efforts that enhance education and career development of adolescent girls. And according to Fears, her volunteering aspirations extend even further.
“As someone from Detroit, I’m passionately interested in resurgence, so I would like to get involved in activities to help the city with public school education,” she shares.
“Kristal is a talented engineer with a dynamic leadership style that inspires the people around her and achieves results,” said Brian Harlow Vice President – Manufacturing, FCA – North America. “Among her accomplishments, she successfully led the implementation of a Transmission Flash System at our Jefferson North Assembly Plant that achieved significant reductions in cost and part complexity. This innovative project, a first within FCA, is now being implemented across multiple vehicle lines and assembly plants on a global level.”
Prior to her current role, she served as Manufacturing Product Responsible with the company. In that role, she coordinated the manufacturing scope, timing and cost for the new model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango programs from program approval through model launch.
A graduate of Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, Fears advises young African American women interested in STEM to go for it. Says Fears, Dont be intimidated. Be a trendsetter. There may not be a lot of African American women in STEM, but so what? Go and do what you enjoy and as long as youre prepared and you have the confidence and the work ethic, no worries. Youll exceed and do well.