How many patent applications did you have pending when you were 23?
Most of us hadn’t even considered developing an idea for a patent at age 23. But Victoria Schein took full advantage of her opportunities in Ford’s College Graduate Program to do just that. As of this writing, she has 15 patent applications pending. Yes, I said 15!
After completing her undergrad studies at Smith College, Victoria applied for an internship with Ford through the Ford College Graduate Program. During her first week in the program, Victoria was sitting in a room with her supervisor going over the logistics of her internship and what opportunities she would have.
“My supervisor told me there was going to be a patent lawyer on site every Tuesday and Thursday that I could talk with if I wanted to,” says Schein. “I thought, hmmm, that sounds cool. Maybe I’ll take that opportunity.”
Smart decision considering Victoria has turned that opportunity into 15 patent applications. But, like many of us, Victoria isn’t always confident about her ideas.
“I’ll think somebody’s done this already or I don’t know enough about this, or I don’t have the background to create this idea.”
Victoria continues to push past those negative thoughts. She started working with technical specialists and patent lawyers to bring a team together that could turn her ideas into a patent filing.
“Through this process, I’ve learned the value of team work and networking.”
Victoria doesn’t drive, so how is she helping Ford?
Yes, you read that correctly: Victoria doesn’t drive. Yet, she has all these fabulous ideas to improve the driving experience.
“I provide a unique perspective to things because I don’t drive. I’m a passenger, a biker, a pedestrian,” explains Schein. “I look at getting from point A to point B as a different experience than someone who is driving.”
Her perspective is timely as Ford continues to expand into a mobility company with a focus on lessening congestion and providing assistance for people who don’t drive a car. It’s part of Ford’s City of Tomorrow vision exploring mobility advancements like autonomous and electric vehicles, connected vehicles, apps and more which will potentially interact with urban infrastructure.
Although she doesn’t drive, Victoria does spend a lot of time in cars. As a passenger she looks at things like GPS systems that won’t allow input while the car is in motion—despite having a passenger in the car to assist.
“At Ford, we’re trying to figure out security—things like using a fingerprint sensor or a camera to detect occupant locations.”
Victoria wants to make things better for drivers and passengers through her ideas, but her interest in cars isn’t all about gadgets and technology.
Car love began at a very early age
Growing up, Victoria was fascinated by cars—but not in the way most of us are—she didn’t care about driving the cars. She wanted to design them.
“When I was young, we had a neighbor who owned a Ferrari. I used to watch him driving it around and thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” says Schein. “I wanted to grow up and design something that beautiful that people would love.”
Victoria credits her interest in the visual aspects of cars to her mother’s influence.
“My mother has a humongous art background. She’s both left and right brain,” says Schein. “She saw that I was different when I was younger. I didn’t want to play with dolls. I was doing Sudoku’s and geometric shapes. But I wasn’t building them for function, I was building an art piece out of things that were math related.”
Victoria’s mom encouraged her throughout her childhood which helped her continue her interests. But Victoria had some doubts—after all, the automobile industry was for boys, right?
Is there room for a young woman in the automotive world? You bet there is.
There’s no question the automotive industry has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. But Victoria wanted to push past those barriers. She knew she wanted to change the world in some way, but there were times when she didn’t feel she had the abilities to succeed.
“When I applied to Smith, they had a really nice engineering program that I felt fit me,” says Schein. “My brother and my dad are both in engineering and I’ve watched them as I grew up. I thought as a female I don’t think I can do this—it’s a male dominated field.”
But throughout her time with Ford as a research engineer in product development, she has proven that you don’t have to be a man to make a difference in the automotive world. And she will continue to be a rising star for the engineering of tomorrow. I’m excited to follow her journey, aren’t you?