From Brazil to Paris, via Toulouse: Ana Flavia’s Adventure
By her own admission, a career in the automotive industry - on the other side of the world, no less - was not something Ana Flavia ever imagined for herself! Growing up in Brazil, her ambition of becoming a pilot in the military was cut short after medical complications. But still dreaming of working with high-tech machinery and engineering, she explored a new path via the world of aerodynamics, deciding to take on a degree in aerospace engineering.
After plans of a military career ended abruptly, Ana had a tough choice to make:
"I then started thinking 'what else would I like to do?' When you are 17 and need to decide on something to do for the rest of your life, it's very hard to make a decision!"
Ultimately, it was Ana's interest in maths and problem solving that provided her with the lightbulb moment to pursue a career in engineering.
She moved to France to study in Toulouse, and it was here that an interest in engineering eventually led her to the bright lights of the automotive industry. After hours in the classroom learning more about small vehicle models and the basics of car design and engineering, all it took was one module on the study of Formula One cars (combining two of Ana's real passions) and she was hooked. A career in the auto industry was born!
After successfully applying for Nissan's first ever Regional Graduate Program, Ana relocated to Paris from Toulouse in 2022. The program was introduced in order for Nissan to attract talented people straight out of university and into a world class OEM. Throughout the program, graduates are given a range of experiences across Nissan's regional operations, allowing them to discover how diverse the industry can be, where their strengths lie, and set them up as a potential leader of tomorrow.
Reflecting on her first year at Nissan, Ana remarks: "the Nissan Graduate program gives you the possibility to explore different areas of the business through a rotation system in 3 or more teams over a period between 18 and 24 months*. This means that you get a good idea exactly of what it is you want in a career".
But it's not all about the work. Ana loves the cosmopolitan nature of the program, working in a diverse environment with so many nationalities bringing different points of view and newer, exciting ways of working. Ana shares: "this is teaching me a lot as I can learn from different people, and I can learn different ways of working".
Today, Ana's successful work in the graduate program has led to a fascinating role working on the cross-car line inside Nissan's regional product planning unit, exploring new and innovative ways to help ensure the safety of autonomous driving tech. This doesn't just involve helping the NML team in Japan by giving visibility of what safety features should be put into Nissan's models, but also benchmarking competitors and working together with NML to ensure Nissan remains at the forefront of innovation in the field. She's currently working closely on Nissan's ProPILOT Assist technology.
When it comes to what can be done to encourage more women and girls to follow her into the industry, Ana is clear that more work is needed at an early stage to boost girls' confidence in their STEM abilities. She explains:
"It's hard to change these negative beliefs when you are already an adult or a teenager, but when you are a kid, it's easier for you to learn and to get more confidence in yourself… people need to encourage more girls to not let their fears dominate them when they are still young."
If it wasn't for the encouragement she received from her father when she was young – as well as the efforts of one of her maths teachers in inspiring her– there is every chance Ana would not have had the confidence to study engineering.
While Ana acknowledges that female representation in the field is improving - with 21% of her university course in France being female - there is still much to do to convince the women of tomorrow that engineering and automotive roles offer so much for them. With initiatives such as the Regional Graduate program and with role models such as herself to help inspire, Ana hopes that greater female representation can be achieved throughout the Nissan business in the coming years, in line with the brand's own Ambition 2030 goals.
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