TTI’s regular series delves into the lives of industry professionals to understand the demands of working in the tire sector
Catarina Silva, product management team leader for Extreme E CrossContact tires, Continental
What was your career path to the position you hold now?
It’s an unusual one and probably similar to a lot of women who come into the automotive industry. I didn’t start out dreaming of tires. I am a mining engineer by background. I’m from Portugal and in 2018, during the financial crisis, I met some engineers at an event who were from [Continental] Germany. They asked me why I hadn’t applied for a job at Conti. I didn’t know how I could make a contribution. But I applied and ended up undertaking some training at the company. I thought that after two months I would be back home. However, you learn so much there and you meet so many interesting engineers, so if you’re curious and you’re interested in the whole process you can develop knowledge in so many different areas. I love this industry. It’s emotive and connected to people. I like this interaction between people and technology.
What are the worst and best parts of your job?
I love the fact that I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in three months’ time; I might be working on a completely new challenge. The worst part is that I feel there is always a lack of time to go as deep as I would like.
Describe a typical day.
Unfortunately, with the emergence of corona, the days have become quite traditional and with the new working style we do a lot of video conferences, coordinating between Europe, Africa, APAC and the Americas. I start at about 8-8.30am and sometimes I will be in meetings all day until 8pm. Discussions could be around the supply chain and availability of materials, product requirements, sustainability or e-mobility strategy, so covering a diversity of topics. Every two months I attend the Extreme E and spend two to three weeks on-site preparing for the race weekend and interacting with the teams. I also do customer visits, training events and launch events.
How do you document your work?
I am the leader of two or three projects usually, and a team member or review sponsor of about 15-20. I primarily use email; I am addicted to my Outlook Calendar – this is how I organize my life. I do a lot of schematics and lists, which I can refer back to.
How easy is it to implement new ideas or changes?
Changes are always difficult and when it comes to technology or production it can be complex because we are paid for output. As such, you must have a solid story, reasoning or business case for a change. However, there is a good ethos for introducing new ideas within Conti – whether it’s changes on a team level or questioning of strategies, it’s something we have learned to do well. It’s important to explain to the key stakeholders why we should change or question something, rather than going around them, making them part of the decision.
Expect a feature on what Conti has learned as the tire supplier to season one of the Extreme E, including an announcement on the new raw materials that will be applied in the season two tires, in the March 2022 issue of TTI.