Lordstown Motors Internship Fair Puts Women in the Driver’s Seat

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — Elizabeth Jelinek embraces the new interns entering Lordstown Motors Corp. this May.

The Cincinnati native was one of them a couple of years ago, starting her journey after her junior year at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Jelinek, a propulsion manufacturing engineer specializing in operation and production at Lordstown Motors, started as a full-time employee in June. The new batch of interns start May 24 at the plant, which produces electric vehicles. The prospective interns attended the Women in Electric Vehicles Virtual Internship Fair on Nov. 7, 2020. The next one is Feb. 18.

“I am a young engineer, woman, but that’s not why I’m valued at this company,” Jelinek said. “I think this company really promotes diversity and really gets to experience all of these different projects that we are working on. I know this program is going to be awesome for all young women, engineers, who want to get that experience and see what work life is like in the manufacturing realm. It’s going to inspire and help keep young women interested in a technology-related field, hopefully. It will be fun to see it come full circle and see the creativity and innovation this program ends up cultivating for these young women.”

Elizabeth Jelinek and Becca Kheiry of Lordstown Motors

Jaimie Green, chief human resources officer at Lordstown Motors, understands the importance of women in this workforce. As chief human resources officer at Lordstown Motors, her job is to watch the data analytics of her company’s workforce, and she sees a gender gap with technologically-based companies.

To help Lordstown Motors bridge this gap, Green started the Women in Electric Vehicles Virtual Internship Fair.

Green said there were about 40 people interviewed during the November fair and about 40 more are expected next month. Interns are college-age students, some being in graduate programs.

The goal is to pair the numbers down to 30 interns working from May to Aug. 14. About 20 will be in Lordstown with the others heading Farmington Hills, Mich., Green said.

Prospective interns are anyone whose field of study is propulsion, battery software, mechanical and electrical manufacturing majors.

“However, with this initiative, if we have someone join us and they’re in internet technology or something technology-wise, we’re open to that as well,” Green said.

The purpose of the program was to bring women into the tech industry, encouraging and inspiring future generations to pursue technology-related careers.

“That is the purpose, the tone of this initiative,” Green said. “That is also paired with the attitude that diversity feeds creativity and innovation. When thinking through the future of Lordstown Motors, we’re thinking how can we have a more gender-balanced culture? Overall in the technology field, there is a gender in balance. We’re being thoughtful and intentional about the future of the company and how we can close those gaps in this program is what we came up with.”

Green said she tracks Lordstown’s data and sees who and when employees are hired, along with their demographics. She takes a hard look at equity, belonging and diversity, along with pay equity.

“We watch all of those pieces of data here because our culture and our people are very important to us,” Green said. “We take care of our employees. We are setting the company up for a long, fruitful future. It’s not fueled by how we feel, but it’s fueled by data. How can we make this the best place to work? Are we weak in any areas? We look at data points internally, but we take external data into consideration as well.”

Becca Kheiry, battery manufacturing engineer on the propulsion team at Lordstown, admits she’s had an affinity for mathematics, but didn’t want to major in that subject at the University of Miami of Ohio. The Findlay native wanted to figure out how the world worked. She ultimately chose electrical engineering because of the dominant math-based principles, she said.

Kheiry gravitated toward an engineering group of about 50% women on the Oxford, Ohio campus, which put her at ease as she pursued her major and ultimately her current position at Lordstown Motors.

“It can be very intimidating to go into somewhere where it’s different from you in some way,” Kheiry said. “I think it was nice to know people off the bat that I would have some things to relate to immediately. Not that if I went into a classroom full of men it was unwelcoming. I didn’t relate to all of them immediately the way if it were half and half or so. The culture of the groups can be in such a way that they are attracting more women. I don’t know which way the cause and effect goes. I felt the culture has been a little more welcoming with groups that have been half and half, rather than 90% men.”

Jelinek advises young girls who are in middle school interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, to forge ahead with their passion even though it may seem to be a male-dominated field.

“I was very math and science oriented,” she said. “Neither of my parents are engineers. They are both business majors. I was a little bit of an oddball with my family, but I knew that I wanted to pursue something that would be challenging and something that I would enjoy learning about. Also, I would come to work every day I would face the problems that I could help solve because I want to help this company and help leave an impact in general on people’s lives. I knew doing this kind of work I was going to leave an impact.”

Being an intern at Lordstown Motors this summer is unlike any other college-aged experience, Green said.

“When they’re here as interns they will actually gain real-world experience,” she said. “They will go through the training program with their teams. If they’re a software engineer, they will be paired with an experienced engineer. They will be able to attend the meetings of those software engineers. Learn the technology and day-to-day job of those software engineers at a graduate level or college level course. They will get full, hands-on experience from a trained engineer. It’s a unique opportunity a lot of people do not receive during their internships.”

Kheiry, who began with the company in October, said she builds one of the batteries for Lordstown Motors’s all-electric pickup truck, the Endurance. She’s there to break it down and learn how to do it the most efficiently and optimize it. Kheiry interfaces with the production team and design personnel to make sure everything is flowing as smoothly as possible.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie here, better than any I’ve worked with before, which were all great companies,” she said. “I think everyone here is willing to teach you. A lot of people come in here and it’s very overwhelming to hop into a startup feet first. You learn a lot in a very short amount of time from a lot of different people. Everyone is extremely willing to help you out and teach you what they know. I feel l’ve learned so much from not only these three months I’ve been here.

“In an internship sometimes you only have three months,” Kheiry added. “You can really get a lot from the startup and camaraderie culture that’s here.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.