We take time to recognize the many contributions, diverse cultures and extensive history of the American Latino community during Hispanic Heritage Month. We celebrate with music, food and dance, often passing down family stories while at it. During this month of celebration, we also want to recognize the contributions of Latinos that go beyond language and culture.
It was nice to see that stories like of the very talented and driven Latina Kia engineer Angeles Elena Van Ryzin are being told.
She helped build the Kia Telluride, an award-winning luxury SUV designed specifically for the U.S. market. There are not many women in STEM, and even less Latina women in STEM, that’s why Van Ryzin embodies Kia’s brand philosophy of “Give it Everything.”
Born in Zacatecas, México, Van Ryzin migrated to Pomona, California at age five with her family and attributes her success to her parents’ sacrifices and support. "I’m lucky that my parents didn’t conform to the mindset of 'coches son para niños' (cars are for boys). I have three brothers, and my parents always allowed me to play sports and get dirty like my brothers regardless of society’s rules of how girls should behave,” she says. Van Ryzin later obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona University.
For the last eight years, Van Ryzin has worked in the Powertrain department at the Kia-Hyundai Technical Center. Her latest work includes designing the drivability, transmission scheduling and torque calibration on the Kia Telluride; in other words, she helped achieve the driving ease and fuel efficiency of the vehicle.
"Telluride had its unique challenges and the stakes were high,” says Van Ryzin. “This is Kia's flagship SUV, it was equipped with a new engine and I was pregnant.” Even while five months pregnant, she traveled to Korea for planning and design meetings, worked long hours at the Technical Center and at eight-months pregnant she was in Death Valley hovering over the hood of a Telluride conducting all the tests to ensure her work was perfect. “Being a woman is not a limitation to do any job,” says Van Ryzin.
When asked why she wanted to work in the automotive industry, Van Ryzin ’s answer is surprising. “I never considered myself a car enthusiast,” she says, “I was motivated by how mobility is essential in our everyday life. I knew that by working in the automotive industry, I would be helping people.
"One of my favorite things about working in this industry is I get to see the final product on the road and think of how proud I am of my parents for laying the foundation.”
Van Ryzin offers advice to young girls that are considering careers in STEM: "Be proud of your heritage, don’t be afraid to shine where you go and Give it Everything! It may be a tough road but take every challenge as a step stone to your goals. Use any negative comments as fuel to propel you where you want to go.”