What sparked your interest in manufacturing engineering?
Ashley: I actually fell into manufacturing engineering. I was working on my Master’s in Mechanical Engineering degree when the funding for our program fell through. With this turn of events, I had to find a “real job.” Fortunately, I landed at an automotive aftermarket supplier as a manufacturing engineer. I enjoyed the role because I was working with my hands and designing processes. As I previously mentioned, I like turning ideas into products. I take great pride and joy in saying, “I made that!”
You joined the Aurora family when we acquired Blackmore, an industry-leading lidar company. What is it about FMCW lidar that’s so critical for the industry?
Ashley: Lidar is one of the eyes that helps the AV “see.” Traditional lidar systems rely on pulsed lidar, which measures distances by sending out a short laser pulse and then measuring how long it takes for the beam to bounce back. In contrast, FMCW (frequency-modulated continuous wave) lidar works by steadily changing the frequency of outgoing laser light. This has its advantages because it measures both velocity and distance instantaneously. FMCW literally paints a picture of what’s happening around the automated vehicle. It’s the next level in lidar!
What motivates you to do the work you’re doing?
Ashley: I love working with my hands and producing a tangible end product. It’s an even better feeling when I see people using my designs or products. The journey and process are equally as important, too. At the beginning, I don’t know what it entails to create the product. Oftentimes, it takes ingenuity to make things work, and that’s part of the fun.
March is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the contributions women made throughout history. What does this month mean to you?
Ashley: I’m extremely grateful for the female pioneers who forged ahead and broke down barriers to pave the way for generations of women, including myself. I’m fortunate to have never encountered significant professional hurdles due to my gender, and that is because of the trailblazing women before me who did it first.
Who are some women who have influenced your life?
Ashley: There are three strong ladies who inspire me:
- The first person is my mother. She raised three girls mostly on her own. My father worked a lot, but my mom never complained. My sisters and I had health issues growing up. However, with my mom’s love and support, we grew up to be successful adults.
- I also admire my oldest sister. She has dyslexia but she didn’t let that hold her back. Despite struggling with school at an early age, she is now a successful cosmetologist and business owner. Even when confronted with an insurmountable problem, she remained resilient.
- Finally, I idolize Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has an extraordinary career serving on the bench of the Supreme Court. The judicial branch is a male-dominated realm, but she didn’t let that faze her. She started a family while pursuing her legal career, particularly advocating for gender equality. RBG is a powerhouse.