Traditionally, the automotive industry has been a male-dominated one. However, this didn’t stop Alisyn Malek from becoming the only woman out of four investment managers for General Motors’ venture capital group.
In charge of finding the next best thing in automotive technology, Alisyn actively advocates for STEM awareness to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We had the opportunity to ask Alisyn what drives her and how she found her footing in this industry.
Darling Magazine: What is your role in automotive technology?
Alisyn: I work in GM’s Corporate Venture Capital group as an investment manager, so I scour the globe for startups that have interesting technologies that we could use in our vehicles – anything from new approaches to fuel efficiency to new touch screen technologies such as what you see on the latest CUE system. I started my work at GM working in our electrification engineering group on electric vehicle charging technologies; I played a role in the development of the Chevy Spark EV charging system and love seeing these vehicles out on the road. I realized that I loved the thrill and challenges of trying to introduce new technologies to the market, so working in this role in GM Ventures is a perfect fit.
DM: What pushes you to do and be your best?
Alisyn: I am pushed to do and be my best because I know that when I operate at that level, I can turn my visions and ideas into reality. Not every day presents a step forward, but I know that if I keep my chin up and attitude positive I can reach my goals. I also know that not everyone has access and opportunities like I have had, so I need to make sure that I am taking the best advantage of what is presented to me, even on the days it feels overwhelming.
DM: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in pursuing your dreams?
Alisyn: Aside from occasionally being identified as “unqualified” despite later proof otherwise, trying to figure out how to pay for my tuition at the University of Michigan Engineering School was tough. I had very supportive parents who were not in the best financial situation to be able to help out, so I had to look at different ways to make it work. I applied for a ton of scholarships, took on loans and worked 30 hours a week through most of undergrad. I’ll never forget the day I got my largest scholarship though, it truly took me from the verge of dropping out of college, to a footing where I thought I could make it work.
DM: What advice would you give a girl who wants to pioneer her own career path?
Alisyn: Don’t take no for the first answer, or even the second answer, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or that something isn’t possible! I try to take that negative feedback and turn it into energy to keep me moving forward, as opposed to letting it hold me back.
I try to take that negative feedback and turn it into energy to keep me moving forward …
DM: What is STEM and what does it mean to you?
Alisyn: STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] to me is really about creativity to change the world around you into the world you want to see. I know a lot of people can get bogged down by the particulars of any given field of math or science and think they are not good at STEM, but I really see it as a toolset for creative problem solving. In fact, I try to help support STEM programs through my involvement as board chair of Detroit-based “Green Living Science”, which helps teach recycling and STEM concepts to Detroit Public School students.
Last year, I was a part of GM’s large “Women in Electrification” initiative where I was on a panel with several of my female engineering colleagues at GM. We spoke to a group of Detroit students regarding how our backgrounds and interest in science, technology, engineering and math positioned us to help create many of GM’s most design-forward and technologically advanced vehicles.
DM: What do you think STEM means for the future and for the next generation of young women?
Alisyn: STEM is the key to our future. Globally it will offer us many of the tools we need to solve the most pressing challenges and I believe that STEM can empower young women to tackle those challenges. The tools of STEM need to be balanced with the perspective of social studies in order to provide solutions that will work best culturally, and I think that is an area that is often overlooked. Young women are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the context that social studies provide as they search for solutions. STEM will provide more and more opportunities for young women to enter the workforce on a level playing field and have a greater impact over the course of their careers.
Image courtesy of Alisyn Malek