Work That Brings Happiness: Jie Zeng’s Career Journey

“Do what makes you happy and enjoy.” 

Jie Zeng, senior manager of Thermal Systems Engineering, says happiness in a career is often overlooked. That’s why she gives this advice to not only colleagues, but also her kids. 

“I always tell people to do or pursue something that interests them,” Jie said. “If you adopt an ‘it’s just a job’ mindset, you are missing an opportunity to better yourself and your skills, whether they be presentation, technical, communication or other.” 

Naturally Curious
Jie takes her own advice, enjoying her role as an engineer, solving problems for others and satisfying her curiosity.   

“I’m an engineer at heart,” she said, “I’m always wondering the ‘why’ of things and weighing the effects of option X versus option Y.” 

It’s this natural sense of curiosity that Jie credits with her success during her 20-year DENSO career. With a doctorate in computer aided engineering (CAE), Jie joined DENSO’s regional headquarters in Southfield, Michigan, in 2003 as a test engineer in thermal engineering. In 2007, she joined the design team, benchmarking state-of-the-art CAE software and developing training classes for design and test engineers in using CAE. In 2009, she was asked to build a CAE team to meet the growing demand from customers.

“We use CAE based on CAD and physics to mature the product before making a prototype for test confirmation – we call this the virtual engineering development process,” she said. “This was new to DENSO – I had to prove it would work. Once I did, I was asked to build CAE teams in North America as well as in India for a DENSO joint-venture company.”

As the use of CAE grew, so did the team. Jie became a senior manager in 2016, responsible for the entire CAE department. Gradually testing and some design was added to her department, as CAE, which changes the design process, human development and organization structure, became the main development tool. Today she’s managing CAE, design and testing across the region, including a CAE and design team in Mexico.

Jie utilized her technical engineering background as her roles expanded and embraced opportunities presented to her. For example, she participated and led the CAE and test global summit from 2013 to 2020, where she worked with DENSO associates in other regions to develop several technologies and share experiences.   

Source of Happiness
When asked what made her happiest about her different roles, Jie points back to being curious.

“If I do the same thing for several years, I get bored,” she said. “Having different roles at DENSO has kept me fresh, satisfying my curiosity and providing new challenges, priorities and people to work with. I am happiest when I feel challenged.” 

Though her education equipped her with technical knowledge, as Jie took on more responsibilities, she also began leading others in management at DENSO. She’s grateful for the training DENSO provides, especially the Regional Leadership Development Program (now Inspire), and her various supervisors who mentored her. These learning and mentoring challenges helped her evolve from a strictly engineering mindset to one that includes people managing. 

Moving forward, she looks forward to continuing using her technical and leadership skills. 

“I’m in charge of a wide scope now, but think I can do and contribute more,” she said. “I want to help DENSO’s digitalization evolution. As the auto industry moves from ICE (internal combustion engines) to battery/electric vehicles, all the related new products will require research and development in both design and manufacture. The vision and strategical thinking built on innovative technology such as digitalization, CAE and more is a key element being a successful player.”