From intern to powertrain engineer: Elevating career at MBRDNA with Anna Kurisaki

Apr 29, 2024 | People Stories

Anna Kurisaki works as a Powertrain engineer at MBRDNA (Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America) in Long Beach, California. She began her career at Aerospace/Department of Defense companies and never thought a career in the automotive industry would be an available career path for someone who studies electrical engineering.

Anna’s journey into the automotive industry was ignited by a Netflix binge of the F1 series “Drive to Survive” during her college years. She found herself captivated by the world of F1 racing and wanted to give automotive a try, especially after observing the lack of female representation in the industry. Determined to challenge this disparity, she felt compelled to explore opportunities within the automotive field.

Anna first came to MBRDNA as an intern in 2021 at the Powertrain team and later continued her career as a full-time Associate Powertrain Engineer in October 2022.

“I didn’t think that someone with my background (electrical engineering) would be able to enter the automotive industry since this is heavily marketed towards mechanical engineers, especially since I didn’t grow up with a passion for cars,” Kurisaki said. “Working at MBRDNA opened my eyes, knowing that despite your educational background, there is a career here for anyone who has the same drive and passion as the people working here. I’m grateful for the engineers who interviewed me, taking a chance on me and offering me the position because I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

You’ve gone from an intern at MBRDNA to a full-time Powertrain Engineer, what is it like?

  • Being an intern at MBRDNA was like a sneak peek at what it would be like to work here full time. I had the luxury to learn about different departments and see which team would be the best fit for me if I decided to stay full time. I was able to take part in exciting, innovative projects.
  • As my time here as an intern passed, I felt like I was growing and becoming a part of the team, not just an intern. I felt like I was able to make an impact on my team and even the company during my year here as an intern and is the reason I decided to stay on the same team as a full-time powertrain engineer.

Any project or accomplishment you’ve conducted at MBRDNA that you’re most proud of?

  • Something I am proud of is building a pedal box.
  • A pedal box is a hardware device installed between the accelerator pedal and the vehicle. It allows for setting various pedal percentage values, which the vehicle can execute upon the switch being pressed. Otherwise, the vehicle operates normally when the accelerator pedal is engaged.
  • Building a pedal box is important because it allows us to test and compare different vehicles in a closed testing environment. Let’s say we want to evaluate how vehicle A and B perform at 40% APP (accelerator pedal percentage), it would be quite difficult to execute this just using our foot! In driveability (the specific team I work in within Powertrain), benchmarking vehicles is essential as it allows us to gauge our vehicle’s performance relative to industry standards and customer feedback metrics such as JD Power ratings With the pedal box, we can test multiple vehicles at the same pedal percentages so we have more comparable results!
  • There were previous versions made by past interns, but my task was to make a robust version of it. The past interns hand soldered all the circuit boards and there would be times when certain connections would cause shortages. So, I made a new circuit board using a PCB.
  • I had no prior knowledge of how to design/assemble a PCB and no peers around me with that kind of knowledge, so it was something I had to just figure out on my own. In the end, it was successful, and am very proud of it.

How do you see the future of powertrain technology evolving, and what excites you most about it?

  • As someone who studied renewable energy as a part of my master’s program, I am very excited about the EV transformation. I think the EV world is still uncharted territory and will redefine the automotive industry.
  • There are many conversations on figuring out what the AMG and MB identity will be like for EVs.  I would like to be a part of the conversation as we discuss sound, powertrain calibration, and etc.

What advice would you give to someone like you aspiring to pursue a career in powertrain or a similar field?

  • Being a female in this industry, I learned very quickly that there is a lack of female representation. From the classroom to meeting rooms, I would look around and find myself being the only female or only female minority in the room. I’m sure any female pursuing the same career will face this situation at one point.
  • But don’t let this minimize your voice. Look at it with a new perspective that you are one of the few making a change in this industry. All it takes is one female in the room to inspire others to follow their path. If you have fellow female colleagues, lean on them for companionship.
  • The Women @MBRDNA employee business group is consistently active and always setting up meetings and events for women to gather, which makes me feel connected to a larger community.
  • I really want to inspire more females to join this industry and I believe it starts with working with the younger generation, letting them know that this is a possible career for females. Recently, I went to a nearby high school with some colleagues to teach them what we do here at MBRDNA.

Outside of work, what are some of your interests and hobbies?

  • Some things I really enjoy doing are going to flea markets and sourcing unique/ vintage clothes, furniture, and décor. I go to my weekly neighborhood farmers market and like to shop seasonally/locally.
  • I enjoy trying new food/ restaurants as well as cooking and making new recipes.
  • Occasionally, I’ll take a pottery class or dance class.
  • I enjoy traveling the world and exposing myself to different cultures and stories.

Can you share a fun or interesting fact about yourself that your colleagues may not know?

  • Despite being born and raised in the US, Japanese was my first language. Both my parents immigrated here from Japan and growing up I mainly spoke Japanese in the household. I only started learning English once I entered the education system.

MBRDNA is a place for exceptional people with outstanding ideas and the absolute willingness to bring them to life. Come join us:

The Powertrain team is actively hiring an Engineering Intern for Spring 2024. Apply here: