20th August 2023 - Q & A with Maria Franco-Jorge

What brought you to MIRA?

I finished my mechanical engineering degree in Spain in 1994. Due to poor employment in Spain, I searched for job opportunities abroad. I found a funded grant scheme for post graduate work experience across Europe, which allowed me to work at Automotive Products, a company in  Leamington Spa. While it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, I was eager to start my career and improve my English. We were testing and developing brakes and clutches, that was the first time I saw MIRA. Seeing the whole set of facilities like the test tracks and wind tunnel I thought, “wow a place like this really exists”! It inspired me to land a graduate job at MIRA as a Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) engineer in 1995.

Within NVH, I started just collecting data during PG testing ,as I became more proficient, I was involved on developing new test techniques to improve our NVH capability. I presented research papers in Europe - a great experience I really enjoyed. I worked with many intelligent, helpful people who I learned lots from and developed my technical abilities. By 2003 I progressed to principal engineer, becoming the NVH Team Leader.

Is there a standout experience within your career at MIRA?

Helping expand our operations in China as a project delivery location and as MIRA China Ltd. It was a fantastic opportunity as a secondment in Shanghai. We lived there for two and a half years, it was such a valuable experience for my whole family; embracing new cultures, foods, and languages. For me, learning a whole new skill set and adapting to new work ethics and communication. It was challenging, but it was a fantastic, enriching experience.

Did your role change once back in the UK?

I came back to a reorganised company and took up a function management role in  NVH and vehicle dynamics. My role continued to expand, and I became more broadly involved across other  vehicle attributes. Another important experience was with HORIBA MIRA Spain - and the creation of that business from a small sales office. I have continued to move as the company has evolved - in 2020 a big change came for me when I moved from engineering to testing.

What’s your current role at MIRA and your future aspirations?

I head two capability groups within the Test Services area of the business: Attributes & Performance and ASSURED CAV. It is an exciting role as the testing processes and mindset are  similar, yet the technology is so different. I am enjoying the combination of traditional attributes with the novelty of automated and autonomous technologies. I am learning something new every day, particularly within ASSURED CAV, where the team is dealing with new technologies and testing to  only drafted regulations, so we are at the very edge of that revolution. Overall, I feel we are in the most transformative time of the transport industry, and to be a part of that I find really stimulating and rewarding professionally.

I believe I still have a lot to contribute as we develop MIRA. I love my work and I hope to continue growing within the company. I also love helping junior engineers, pointing them in the right directions and presenting them with opportunities. I would like to increase my involvement in mentoring and supporting others in that way.

What advice would you give others starting their careers?

Don’t have a very predefined career path - watch for opportunities with an open mind. I have had such an interesting career just by taking new experiences - stepping out of my comfort zone. It is a rarity a company can provide so many opportunities for you to shape your own career, and you are encouraged along the way, particularly at MIRA. That is why I never thought of leaving, I have always felt trusted and supported.