Our Stories: Women @MBRDNA, Part Two

Mar 23, 2024 | People Stories

In honor of Women’s History Month, we continue to recognize some of the amazing female colleagues doing this great work at MBRDNA, from engineering to automotive, business partner and executive assistant, they embody our core mission at MBRDNA – pioneer the most desirable technologies from North America for Mercedes-Benz.

Here’s part two of our two-part Women@MBRDNA’s (Our) Story series, in which we’ll hear from a total of ten women at MBRDNA.

Amy Lilly
State Regulatory Principal Specialist
Sacramento, CA

Q: Tell us a bit about your professional journey and what do you work on at MBRDNA.
My first professional job after earning my Masters in Public Policy was with an environmental consulting company. This job introduced me to the environmental regulatory world as I worked to support EPA rulemakings and to perform site audits of industrial facilities. When that job ended unexpectantly, I was able to secure a job with the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) as Director of Manufacturing Operations. I had a steep learning curve as I knew very little about manufacturing issues or the automobile industry. I spent most of my time advocating on environmental regulations impacting AIAM’s member’s manufacturing facilities. As my career moved forward, I took that experience and applied it to vehicle recycling and climate change advocacy at American Honda and then to all types of vehicle emission regulatory advocacy at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center. Now at MBRDNA, I have narrowed my focus on state environmental regulatory advocacy. I cannot say that I had this career path in mind when I was in school, either to be working on environmental regulatory issues, or to be working in the automobile industry. In truth, I was unaware that the kind of work existed when I went to college. But here I am, and I can see how all of the opportunities along the way contributed to my career and led to me to where I am today at MBRDNA.

On Mentorship and Networking:
When I was growing up, my mother told me I could achieve anything if I worked hard at it. I studied diligently and did very well in school. But sadly, I found that approach did not lead to success in the workplace. Over time, I realized that I had not learned the right skills for achieving my goals. I discovered that I needed to build relationships within my organization as well as with a variety of people the policy field, and networking was a key to getting things done.

Throughout my career, I have pursued networking in a variety of ways. But the avenue that has proven the most fruitful has been actively participating in professional organizations and trade groups. My most recent experience has been the most rewarding. I helped form and lead the Sacramento Chapter of Women of Electric Vehicles (SacWEVs). In this role, I have not only learned a lot professionally about all aspects of the electric vehicle ecosystem, but I have made true friends with the other members, all the while having fun. Watching everyone work together on the leadership team, I discovered that all of these women were talented and dependable. I have thought on many occasions that if this group of women had our own company, it would be extremely successful.

All of these women have job responsibilities that overlap with mine in some way. Some even work at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) the agency that regulates the emissions of our vehicles. I know that if I need background information or help with a regulation, I can pick up the phone and call one of these women and get an answer. Additionally, I am confident that if I am experiencing a career challenge, I can discuss it with one of them to get advice. We have each other’s backs as human beings.

One of the other things that I have found invaluable was to have and be a mentor. The first day at my job at AIAM, my boss was out of town. But he had arranged for me to spend the afternoon with our outside attorney, Dick Penna. Unknowingly, Dick stepped into the role of my mentor on that first day. He filled me in on the industry, the regulatory issues, and on the people inside and outside of AIAM with whom I would be working. Over the years that I worked there, he provided me background and guidance on issues. Ultimately, he taught me how to be effective in Washington, DC.  To this day, Dick remains a trusted mentor and friend. He has been a reference for every job I have interviewed for since I worked at AIAM. Best of all, we remain friends. He and his wife had me to their house for dinner when I was in Washington, DC in January.

I have participated in the MBRDNA mentorship program as both a mentor and a mentee and I cannot say enough good things about it. Whether you fall into a mentor relationship like I did with Dick Penna, identify someone whom you respect and ask them to be your mentor, or participate in a more formal program like the one here at MBRDNA, I recommend that you find a mentor, no matter where you are in your career journey.

Jenina Mendoza 
Sr. Learning and Development Program Manager 
Sunnyvale, CA

Q: Tell us a bit about your professional journey and what do you work on at MBRDNA.
I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Political Science from San Jose State with the initial goal of working for the government or a non-profit. I wanted to make a difference in my city and my local communities. While interning for the City of San Jose, I was exposed to a few facets of Human Resources (recruiting and administrative HR) and enjoyed the work.

Later that year, I was offered a job at a pharmaceutical start-up as an HR coordinator. I realized I was passionate about helping people by working in HR but lacked the educational background, so I pursued a master’s degree in HR Management while working full-time. After graduating with my HR degree, I worked within a few industries that taught me how to manage different areas of HR in small to medium-sized organizations. In 2020, MBRDNA offered me a position to lead our Learning and Development initiatives. I have always been passionate about learning, self-development, and the Mercedes-Benz brand, so this role felt perfect. I love what I do!

I am passionate about helping and seeing our employees grow in their careers. This inspires me every day. I feel so fortunate to have a role in an organization that affects all employees and managers positively. I love seeing the impact our Learning and Development programs make at all levels of the organization.

Q: Can you tell me about a project or accomplishment that you’re particularly proud of?

Last year, we launched our MBRDNA Women in Business Leadership Certificate with the support of our MBRDNA leadership. Since May 2023, we have included 30+ women in the program. I’m proud to have spearheaded a new learning program specifically for the women in our organization and to help foster more opportunities for networking and collaboration.

Q: If you’ve ever felt imposter syndrome, are there specific strategies you’ve found effective in overcoming it?

Absolutely. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family and the first to take on a corporate role. Sometimes, I find it surreal that I can do what I love here at MBRDNA. I have many projects that bring me out of my comfort zone. When I feel imposter syndrome, I bring out my “win folder,” where I have listed all my accomplishments and kudos that I have received and read through them. I feel more confident and empowered by remembering that I am here due to my hard work, skills, and strengths.

Lindsay Appesland
Sr. Executive Assistant & Project Manager
Seattle, WA

Q: Tell us a bit about your professional journey and what do you work on at MBRDNA.
I have been doing event management since the mid-2000’s with owning my own Wedding and Event Planning business and then I just kind of fell into the Executive Assistant role. I started my career in recruiting, at Microsoft, Expedia and Amazon, then moved into Catering & Event Management for a local catering company, Shooby Doo Catering. Once I left catering, I worked in Events and as an Executive Assistant at the University of WA, where over the course of 4 years, I worked to help change the department name to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  While at UW, I also received the award in 2015 for Outstanding Staff Member for my event and project management expertise.  From there, a friend referred me for the Executive Assistant Role with MBRDNA & I joined MBRDNA. I enjoy working with people, helping others, planning events, and building solutions to complex problems – the Executive Assistant role in Seattle has all of that (and more)!

On Leadership and Collaboration:
Building connections and maintaining work relationships across departments can be a challenge at times. I think the more we are able to have face-to-face interactions and really learn about the person, we are able to understand them better. I try to schedule video “meet & greets” with new team members and other key stakeholders that I know I’ll be partnering with. This helps to get to know them on a more personal basis and helps to understand tone over IMs and emails. I really appreciate that Cloud & Connectivity has bi-monthly All Hands meetings, where people come into the office to attend. I enjoy seeing them after the meeting or grabbing a random cup of coffee together. I’m a people person so, the in-person connection helps me to fill in those gaps and really get to know the team.

Q: Have you read a book recently that left a lasting impression on you?

“Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes

“Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey (best listened to on audible)

On Workplace Culture and Initiatives:
I think MBRDNA does a wonderful job of ensuring women are supported in the workplace; with the mentorship program and Women@MBRDNA, we are consistently looking to grow and support the women in the company. I’m excited for 2024 and the programming that Women@MBRDNA and the HR team has coming down the pipeline to ensure the women are championed. I know Women@MBRDNA is looking at programs/events related to Financial, Mental and Physical Wellness to name a few.

Manisha Mishra
Speech Cloud Engineering Manager
Sunnyvale, CA

Q: Tell us a bit about your professional journey and what do you work on at MBRDNA.
I have been with the Automotive Infotainment Industry over 12+ years. I started off my career as a HMI Software developer, then I was the Lead for connectivity and HMI domains for MY17/18 and 19 vehicle lines for General Motors. After successful launch of MY17, I was promoted as a Software Defect Manager and I managed teams across India, Romania, and US. This was the first time I learned a lot about handling a large team across different time zones. Then I started working on a new project for Rear Seat Infotainment system for the large SUV luxury vehicle lines as the Senior Software Lead. I worked on developing the Best First In-Class Rear Seat infotainment (RSI) system which was a huge success, and I am very proud of that product. This was for MY21/22/23 and MY/24. We changed the whole RSI concept and brought in super cool outstanding features as Parental control, Front App on the main Head Unit, Swipe Share feature, Miracast and Streaming Services for both Front Seat Infotainment and Rear Seat infotainment. Then I joined Lucid Motors as Senior Manager for Infotainment Software, and I was handling three teams Speech, Navigation and Rear Seat Entertainment. It was a great experience working for a startup, setting up new processes, and building up processes and teams. And then I joined MBRDNA and took over #HeyMecedes Speech team for North America here at Sunnyvale.

Q: Are there wellness practices or activities outside of work that you find rejuvenating?
I walk daily and try to meet my daily 12,000 steps target. I try to hit the gym 3x a week. I also go to dance practice every week.

Q: Are there women leaders or figures who inspire you in your career or personal life?

Mary Barra is my role model and one of my biggest inspirations. I am a huge fan of hers. Being the first woman to become the CEO of a major automaker globally, she is referred to as a trailblazer in the automotive industry. This is very inspiring to me as I value breaking barriers and challenging the status quo, especially in traditionally male-dominated field. I admire her because of her values like collaboration, honesty, and empowering others. I had the privilege to work for her directly and got a chance to learn a lot from her.

Q: Can you tell me about a project or accomplishment that you’re particularly proud of?
I would like to highlight my most recent accomplishment here at MBRDNA and that is, my team winning the Pioneer Innovation award for 2023 for #HeyMercedes with ChatGPT Beta Program. Meeting Ola Källenius in person with my whole team and getting recognition, awesome feedback for the innovation, and encouragement to keep moving forward for our end customers have been great and new experiences.

Priya Marwah
Sr. Product Compliance Counsel
Farmington Hills, MI

Q: Tell us a bit about your professional journey and what do you work on at MBRDNA.
In my 22 plus year career as a lawyer, I’ve been privileged to work shoulder-to-shoulder with technical visionaries and business leaders as a legal strategist, regulatory and compliance expert, and advisor helping start-up to Global Fortune 50 companies protect value and reputation, manage risk, and navigate the uncertainty of new and emerging laws and regulatory frameworks.

Today, I bring that public and private company experience to Mercedes-Benz R&D North America as Senior Product Compliance Counsel.

I started my in-house counsel career in 2010 where I held director of legal services and corporate counsel roles for the vaccine manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions, Inc, and The Harvard Drug Group, LLC, a PE-owned wholesale pharmaceuticals distributor where I served as de facto general counsel and helped prepare the company for acquisition.

Prior to joining Mercedes-Benz R&D I was a contract attorney at Ford Motor Company Office of General Counsel.

I began my career as a general business, corporate finance, and acquisitions attorney for law firms including Dykema Gossett PLLC in Detroit.

On Networking:

I have always enjoyed networking – I love attending events and meeting new people. I have an outgoing personality, so I am not afraid to go up to someone new and say hello and strike up a conversation. I don’t have any specific approach to networking or attending networking events, but my goal is to try and attend as many in person events as often as possible and to leave those in person events with at least 2-3 new connections. I then like to build a relationship and a personal connection to anyone new I meet as you never know when and where in life someone you meet may call you and offer you a new job, for example.

Q: Any career achievements that you are most proud of?

An accomplishment I am most proud of is sitting on a panel to interview a candidate for the State Bar of Michigan regarding character and fitness. I was appointed to this position last year, and I had the privilege of serving on my very first panel recently. It made me realize what an honor and privilege it is to be a member of the Bar association and to practice law.

Interested in applying for MBRDNA open positions? Check out here: https://jobs.lever.co/MBRDNA