Patently Successful

At 23 years old, Ford engineer Victoria Schein holds nine patents.

One of Ford Motor Co.’s brightest young engineers doesn’t drive. She walks, rides her bike, or takes the bus.

This might seem strange for someone who is employed by one of the largest automakers in the world, but Victoria Schein, a 23-year-old graduate of Smith College, says her choice to travel without her foot touching a gas pedal is an asset.

“I think it’s important to have the perspective of a passenger,” Schein says. “I think maybe that perspective has been overlooked in the past. A lot goes into innovation, and a lot of my ideas come from my daily mobility — people in my shoes, who don’t have a car.”

Despite the fact that she doesn’t own an automobile, Schein — who started working at the company’s Silicon Valley Innovation Center as an intern in 2016 — has already made an impact at Ford. Over the last year, Schein, who’s now at the automaker’s world headquarters in Dearborn and working in several capacities as she moves around the company on a two-year rotation, has attracted attention as an inventor. The recent college grad is the holder of nine patents, and has 30 more in the application stage. “I always wanted to design cars,” she says, “but I never really thought of being an inventor.”

That changed when she got to Ford. The company has fostered an environment that encourages all employees to think of ways to help mobility evolve, and Schein has taken full advantage of that opportunity.

“I don’t think I was thinking in a very innovative manner when I first started my internship,” she says. “But I took the initiative to grow, and really stepped out of my comfort zone. Ford taught me that you don’t have to be an expert in the field to come up with a solution. You just have to find experts to help you fill your knowledge gaps.”

Schein says Ford made its patent lawyers available to her, and the company is supportive of new ideas, regardless of where they come from. “It’s all about teamwork and collaboration here,” she says. “It’s so important to the patentability of a product.”

Most of Schein’s patents involve technology to help with U-turn assistance (maneuvering, routing, assessing turn feasibility, and event tagging) and limiting distracted driving. She also has patents for towing assistance technology and fueling station rerouting.

When it comes to developing new ideas, Schein’s approach isn’t complex: Keep it simple, but be unflinching. “I think you have to start by looking at things simply,” she says. “We’re thinking about everyday things and fixing everyday problems. It’s about being bold and taking action.”