Hail to the Tabars -- Though Andrea Tabar (center) is an undergraduate student at Purdue, she was born and raised in a University of Michigan household headed up by her mother Kristen and father Dan.
Kristen Tabar, vice president of Quality, is an engineer. Her husband, Dan, who works at an automotive supplier in Michigan, is also an engineer. So is her brother, Frank DiMaggio, who’s in Vehicle Performance at TMNA R&D. And her sister-in-law, Lisa DiMaggio, who’s in Powertrain, also at Toyota’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, facility.
Oh, and Tabar’s father? He was a civil engineer.
Yet, Tabar insists, she’s always encouraged her three daughters to pursue whatever career their hearts’ desire.
“Of course, I also told them that if they want their mom and dad to pay for it, it has to be engineering,” she says.
That, Tabar is quick to add, is just a joke.
But her eldest daughter’s efforts to follow in her elders’ footsteps? That’s a very serious business.
Andrea Tabar, you see, is just wrapping up a three-month internship in Connected Technologies at TMNA headquarters. Last summer, she interned in the Operations Management and Development Division (OMDD), participating in team member training at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, and line-side training at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama.
In between, she’s been pursuing an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana. A post-graduate degree in engineering, or a Master of Business Administration — or maybe even both — could follow.
Following Her Passion
Mother-Daughter Selfie 1 -- How close are Kristen and Andrea? This photo, as well as the two that follow below, serve as clues.
Maybe it’s nature. Maybe it’s nurturing. But make no mistake: Andrea Tabar knows what she’s best at and what gets her ideas flowing.
“It was my junior year in high school when I realized this would be my focus,” Andrea says. “Before that, I thought about medical school. I even thought about being a lawyer. But I loved math and science too much. As a junior, I took statistics, pre-calculus, chemistry and environmental science all at the same time. That’s when it really clicked for me.”
Engineering, though, is an incredibly wide and diverse discipline. So, while Andrea is on the engineering path, she’s still sorting out exactly where she’ll take it.
The Lessons Learned
This is where her time at Toyota will no doubt prove invaluable.
“I didn’t know what to expect last summer, but I’m very grateful for the experiences I had and the people I met,” she says. “The team members at OMDD are masters of the Toyota Production System. I attended lectures on the principles of TPS. I saw how those principles applied on the plant floor and in the building of engines. I also spent some time at a supplier that was behind on production. I was part of a team that helped them close the gap while also reducing their overtime. It was super hands on.”
The second time around she specifically sought out a more development engineering-focused experience. With Connected Technologies in Plano, she concentrated on benchmarking Toyota’s in-vehicle multimedia systems against those of its competitors, specifically looking at features that are measured by J.D. Power and Associates.
“We put together a report that identified key differences from a customer point of view,” she says. “We are also working on solutions or best methods so that future systems aren’t just equal to others on the market but better.”
A Future in Mobility?
Andrea’s convinced all of the above will help her narrow her focus back at Purdue. After considering biomedical engineering and then environmental engineering in her freshman year, she settled on electrical engineering her sophomore year. The winnowing process will continue as a junior.
Will she keep it all in the family and seek a career in the automotive industry? While her mother would certainly be thrilled with that outcome, Kristen insists the final decision is entirely Andrea’s — as it will be for her two younger daughters, Danielle and Natalie, when they reach that crossroads.
“There are so many different opportunities in engineering that can take you in so many different directions,” says Kristen. “At the root of it, engineering is about problem solving. If you can solve problems, you can do just about anything.”
For now, Andrea is keeping an open mind. She’s intrigued with what’s happening in fiber optics. But Toyota’s shift from being a car company to a mobility company has also piqued her curiosity. Though it wasn’t part of her official job description this summer, she made a point to meet and network with team members who are working on that transition and, perhaps, get a sneak peek into that not-so-distant future.
The possibilities for budding engineers like Andrea are nearly endless.
“I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll do, but I do like the opportunities,” she says. “I’m really hopeful and excited about the promise of mobility. There’s a long way to go, but it feels like it could happen sooner than people think. A lot could change for Toyota in the next 5-10 years. I like where it’s going. And, who knows, maybe I’ll have a chance to be a part of it.”
By Dan Miller