Sergio Pujols, Energy Management Engineering Leader: Embrace and Lead Change
Energy Management Engineering, Green Technology Group
Sergio started his career in a graduate rotation program for an automotive tier 1 supplier where he worked as a floor supervisor at a manufacturing plant, a process engineer, and design engineer. He joined DENSO in 2004 as a senior engineer of radiator business for a heavy duty customer. He then took a two-year rotation assignment at DENSO’s global headquarters in Japan where he focused on heat exchanger R&D. Upon his return to DENSO’s North American headquarters, he became senior manager of heat exchanger research & development (R&D). He then took on a dual role as director of R&D over Production Engineering and Design Engineering, splitting his time between DENSO Manufacturing Michigan and DENSO International America. He was promoted to vice president of Energy Management Engineering in 2020.
The Energy Management Engineering group contributes to DENSO’s Green Cause by designing products and applications like Inverters, Heat Pump, Compressor, Battery Management Systems, and more for electric vehicles; as well as exploring new domains like renewable energy and air mobility. Efficient energy management is essential to extend an EV's range, enhance battery life, reduce charging times, all factors that contribute to the adoption of EVs to enable a Carbon Neutral Society.
Be an Agent of Change
Some people have called me a “troublemaker”. I prefer agent of change.
In my first role, I learned a lot by rotating into different areas and positions throughout the company. I was able to see different aspects of the business and different ways of working. This gave me a fresh perspective and some new ideas. In each area I rotated, I wanted to share my ideas to see if any improvements could be made. But, I ran into a lot of challenges with this. Most people are naturally afraid of change. They tend to avoid it, ignore it or fight it.
I have learned that to effectively lead change, understanding others’ viewpoints is very important, and one way that to do this is to debate. I enjoy listening to different viewpoints and trying to challenge them – it’s fun for me. I found that this really helps shed light on new perspectives and new ideas, and helps drive change. This has helped me better embrace and lead change.
Changes happen every day. There is no way of stopping change, and it’s fundamental. When you resist change, it doesn’t solve anything. At the end of the day, change is going to happen whether you’re a part of it or not. One of the things I have loved about working for DENSO is that I have been empowered to drive change throughout my career.
Take Action, Don’t Wait
A couple years into my career at DENSO, I was seeking a new challenge. I took initiative to research market trends and map out potential business opportunities for DENSO. This became a passion project for me. I ended up building a prototype of a water cooled charge air cooler because I believed this was the direction DENSO needed to go, and, as an engineer, creating a prototype was the most effective way I knew how to go about proving my case. I felt so strongly about it that I walked into our Engineering executive’s office with my prototype and plopped it on his desk. He supported me and this vision by sending me on a rotation to Japan so I could acquire the knowledge and skills of how to properly do product R&D, to then support North America’s future in thermal management.
When I returned to the U.S., I was charged with forming a heat exchanger R&D team. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hire a team of talented associates who developed the first heat exchanger fully designed and built in North America, for our North American customers. I am very proud of what we accomplished as a team. We developed new skills and strengthened our regional capabilities, positioning North America for a bright future in thermal management.
I believed this was the right direction and the right thing to do, and took the steps necessary to build a path forward. It took extensive research, debate, consensus, upskilling, and team work. But we did it – we led positive change that helped strengthen and shape the future of our company, our region, and our individual careers. I was fortunate to have a strong team with me that also believed in this direction. I would not have been able to accomplish what I did without such a great team.
Have Fun With It
I care about people and I care about my work. We spend so much time at work and with each other, we might as well have some fun!
I encourage people to challenge and share their viewpoints – debate and have fun with it. Debating our different viewpoints helps us strengthen our arguments, understand one another, and consider different factors. Great ideas come from debate. Compromise comes from it as well.
Q. What do you like about DENSO?
I work in a growth area, focused on a cause that I am passionate about – a green future. Over the past decade, the impacts of global warming are becoming greater and more visible. To reduce or revert the impact, we have to achieve carbon neutrality.
Through electrification and other solutions, we can contribute to society. We as a company, and as an industry, have the power to create a better future. I want my daughter to have that.
DENSO also strongly supports individual growth and passion. No one has told me “no,” even though I’ve heard “no” a thousand times. What I mean by that is, if you want to do something, no one will stand in your way. You may hear the word “no,” but it really means find another way, keep trying. I’ve been able to accomplish so many incredible things with the many talented associates and teams that I’ve worked with across DENSO – creating a heat exchanger R&D team, getting funding for 3D printing, building respirators with Ford during the COVID pandemic. Don’t give up if you hear “no.” Take it as a challenge to forge a new path.
Working with Sergio:
Robert Cardno, director of Engineering, Green Technology Group
“I have been working directly with Sergio in Thermal Engineering since late 2018, and indirectly well before then when I was working in our Powertrain division on some collaboration projects. Since our first interactions, one theme has been constant – a passion to achieve new value. This passion creates a supportive and motivating environment to try new things, develop new products, challenge what we have done before and question everything to extract the best value for us and our customers. I appreciate that support and I also feel it is a very important mindset we all have to have as the automotive industry goes through this time of dramatic changes to how we develop and what we develop for the industry. Together we can do great things!”