Sara Repen is an engineer and project leader with more than two decades of experience in transportation technologies. She currently is a manager with responsibility for the Bill of Material and CAD systems at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). She has been awarded two US Patents, a black belt in Design for Six Sigma, and the General Motors Reaching Further diversity award. Repen also was a guest on the TV documentary Detroit in Overdrive. A WMU graduate, she is a highly praised speaker in the college’s Women and Leadership in Engineering course, and will be the featured speaker at a special event this month for admitted female engineering students.
Repen said she has seen the workplace become increasingly global and the skills required for success change. Her professional mission is to empower employees to perform at their full capacity. She is passionate about providing an environment of continuous learning, compelling vision, strong leadership, and nimble computer systems to every engineer at Fiat Chrysler.
Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from WMU and a master’s degree of business administration and strategic leadership from Davenport University.
What has your career path been like since graduating from WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences? Have there been any surprises along the way?
I graduated from Western Michigan University in 1997 with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. I began my professional career with General Motors where I held a number of positions in Interior Systems and was awarded two US Patents. In 2014, I joined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles where I am now an engineering manager with responsibility for the Bill of Material and PLM software systems.
I continue to be surprised and humbled by the number of engineers around the world with whom I have worked and now count among my friends. It’s exciting to consider that I have launched products on every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica.
What are you passionate about in your work?
Having worked as an engineer in so many different roles, I’ve identified that my passion is building better tools for engineers. Any improvement that I can create in their tools translates to more time in which they can do great engineering for our customers.
How did your experience at WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences shape your success?
The engineering program at WMU places priority on hands-on experiences of engineering. That sharpened my focus on the customers that will use the products that I engineer and what their experience will be of the product. It’s made me a stronger engineer and opened up a world of opportunities to me as my leadership recognized that I work in the realm of the customer, not the theoretical.
What advice would you give young women looking to pursue a degree in engineering?
Go for it! Look for engineers -- men or women -- who inspire you, challenge you, and from whom you can learn...then learn from them. There are so many opportunities in engineering that everyone has a chance to be fully themselves and fully successful in this profession.
Describe your favorite Bronco moment.
One of my favorite moments was early in my engineering program when we were learning about materials, bonding of materials, and welding in particular. My class included a number of men from the football team. One night we completed our own welds and competitively tested their strength. I will always delight in the memory of two of those football players working together to break my weld and only accomplishing a bend.
Anything else we should know?
I really enjoy returning to WMU and working with the students as they prepare for their careers. I encourage all alumni to get involved where they can. WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences is a great institution and our investment can continue to make it stronger.