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Female Disruptors: Sue Magnusson, Jenny Ha & Joann Jung of Lucid Motors On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Always be open to your next opportunity: Someone very special in life once said those words to me. When opportunities come my way, I try to explore and go down the path to see if it might really be a good opportunity, maybe one that was going to provide something better. Even if I wasn’t really interested, I don’t believe you can really know what a new opportunity can bring to your life, unless you are willing to be open. This very notion played out when Derek Jenkins asked me to join Lucid. I really didn’t know if I wanted to join, but I went through the process, and then finally meeting the team, convinced me that this was a very special opportunity.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Magnusson, Jenny Ha and Joann Jung.

Sue Magnusson is the Director of Design, CMF (Colors, Materials, Finishes) at Lucid Motors, where she leverages her 27 years of design experience, with a focus on CMF and holistic design, to help anchor Lucid’s design team, overseeing Lucid’s CMF strategy — from vision to concept to industrialization — for the development of both interior and exterior design. Before joining Lucid, she was Director of Design and founding partner of o2studio Design Consultancy. In her 12 years at o2studio, she helped establish it as a leader in CMF design for Fortune 100 companies in consumer electronics and automotive industries, including Dell, Microsoft, HP, Nokia, Volvo, Hyundai, and Bell Sports, among others.

Jenny Ha is the Exterior Design Manager at Lucid Motors where she leads the exterior design of the Lucid Air from strategic concept design through to production design. Prior to Lucid Motors, Jenny was an exterior designer at VW/Audi Design Center California, where she designed a variety of production and concept car proposals for all brands of the Volkswagen Group. In addition to her role at Lucid, she also teaches Transportation Design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Joann Jung is Design Director, Interiors, at Lucid Motors, using her 17 years of automotive experience to lead interior design at the company. Joann oversees development of vehicle interiors from concept strategy to volume production, with the overarching goal of designing the ultimate in-vehicle experiences for all occupants by creating a unique interior space concept. Prior to her role at Lucid, Joann led Global Advance Interior Design at Ford Motor Company, which included creating concepts for all new 2015 Ford F150 interiors, as well as spending years at the Lincoln studio, with designs that include the Lincoln MKT concept interior.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Sue: I grew up in Los Angeles, and believe I was born a designer. Certainly, I could not articulate this in my early years, but as I think back, I was fascinated by cars, what the inside of people’s homes looked like and a love for fashion. I was consistently moving furniture around and organizing things in a pleasing way in my parents’ home. There was a sensitivity I felt about my environment, the spaces that I occupied, whether that was at school, at home or at friend’s houses. While in these spaces it would often lead me to daydream about what I would do to the room or space to make it look better, work better and feel better. To have found my way into the discipline of CMF Design and designing for interior and exterior of cars seems that I landed exactly where I needed and wanted to be. Design is a passion, it’s an integral part of my daily life, not just at work but in my personal life as well.

Jenny: I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. I loved drawing and sculpting ever since I was a little girl. I surrounded myself with friends who were passionate about art and visited different exhibitions every weekend. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 17 and became very passionate about cars ever since I started driving. I used to collect classic car photographs, which led me to follow all concept/production car news and eventually lead me to pursue a career in car design. I like having design discussions about new products and learning about new technology that makes design evolve.

Joann: In a nutshell, in my current role, I’m the happiest girl in the playground, spending every waking hour doing what she loves the most! I grew up in South Korea building LEGOs with my younger brother and have loved building things with my hands since I was a little girl. I still build LEGOs during the weekend…. I came to California at age 16, studied car design at ACCD in Pasadena and moved to Michigan to work at the Ford Motor company. I was there for 12 years and then joined Lucid Motors over six years ago. I get to design car interiors at the center of Silicon Valley with the most innovative, creative and brilliant minds and this is what helps me be that silly happy girl at heart.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Sue: This concept of disruption in the business world is certainly compelling to think about and inspiring when companies step out of the conventional approach. Design has always worked with the notion of disruption. I’ve often said, when showing new concepts and ideas to our stakeholders, if I’m not making you a little uncomfortable, then I’m not really doing my job. What I mean by this is designers naturally want to innovate, to push boundaries, they typically are not okay with “status quo”. Disruption is part of the creative process and the methodology of design: How can we make something better, how can we look at the user in a new way, what is missing, it’s an ongoing dialog. What does this mean at Lucid? It means that we are pushing the boundaries in every way: Our CMF strategy is specific to how we designed the car: Taking advantage of the small motor that gave the interior space lots of room. Creating CMF that enhances this through the duality of the front and rear cabin colors, the haptic of the materials, the scent of the materials, the visual quality and the harmony of the materials in the space. We have considered the backseat passenger as much as the driver, I believe this is why our customers are often wanting to get in the back seat and experience that as much as the driver seat. It’s just one of the many areas where we are breaking the convention.

Jenny: I’ve always wanted to be part of a team that is determined to make a sustainable future and progressive design impact. The fact that Lucid focuses on very close collaboration between design and engineering from the beginning of the design process is one of a kind. It allows the design team to sketch and dream the things that are very difficult in traditional automotive settings. We can focus on the features and proportions that can make the product very unique and desirable to customers and not be held back by the legacy product line up or previously built expectations. With our first vehicle, the Lucid Air, I believe that we achieved a very disruptive position from the sedan market. Customers do not have to choose between a spacious luxury sedan and a powerful sporty one. They can have it all with the Air. And our SUV project, Gravity, will also have the same impact. We want to create unique products in the market. I believe that our freedom to dream and the opportunity to make that dream come true will put us into a very disruptive position in the automotive industry.

Joann: Building a new EV brand with some of the most brilliant minds and creating a new future-thinking car brand is what makes Lucid disruptive, especially taking into account that we’ve set a more meaningful definition of interior space and the whole interior experience. I think the company itself is disrupting the auto industry by creating a vehicle with a very sexy aerodynamic exterior design and a small exterior footprint, but with the largest interior space in its segmentation. We don’t compromise anything, we design and engineer every product to the max. Additionally, the way we work together so closely between every department makes things happen much quicker. Decisions are made and problems are quickly recognized and solved in a very efficient manner. All of us learned so much from our previous experiences and we collectively pick and choose what is the best way to build and grow a company together. And when this happens, you feel the ownership and belonging and responsibility toward the company and the friends you work with.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Sue: I created a beautiful exterior paint color in the beginning of my career. It was a multi layered color with a “clear coat tint.” Everyone loved this color, and I was so excited. Many months later, I kept hearing about a color that was causing issues due to the multiple laying of the paint, and eventually realized it was this color that I created. I don’t think I ever admitted that it was my color… But indeed, a lesson learned: make sure you can create new colors in the proper manufacturing process, lean into your suppliers to help guide you, and then push them a little too.

Jenny: Beginning my career as a designer, I was sketching ideas focused on the sketch and rendering itself. Treating each of them like my artwork. They were dramatic and dreamy, and I thought that was the best way to sell the theme to the team. Shortly after working with professional digital/clay modelers in the studio, I realized that the best sketches are the ones that clearly represent proportion, surfaces and details that everyone involved in the project can read and understand. And how that understanding is critical for the design process in order to push the project forward. I design now focusing on the model from the very early process and this was something that I didn’t learn from school, but a big lesson I had to learn from the studio.

Joann: I made many mistakes in the early years of my career and I don’t remember any of them being particularly funny. But I remember feeling like it was the end of the world every time, which is funny now that I look back. I was so serious about every little thing and worried all the time, now I spend my energy looking at the bigger picture. Another thing I had to overcome was the power of teamwork. Due to the very competitive nature of my career, I thought I had to do everything myself to do it right. How naive I was back then, now I love spending time with other designers to exchange ideas and designs.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Sue: I would love to have had a mentor, but I can’t really say, I’ve had one. However, I certainly have people in my life that have given me some great advice and encouraged me when I needed it. Derek Jenkins, who is our Sr. VP of Design, at times in the past five years has given me perspective and insight that have been so valuable. Having a mentor and mentoring is a real gift, especially for women in our industry. It’s still male dominated and it would have been great to have a woman in my life who could have guided me through some of the bumps along the way. I try now to mentor the young designers on my team, encourage them to find their voice, and help them grow.

Jenny: I have been blessed with many incredible mentors who shaped me into who I am today as a designer. JC Pavone, who was the chief designer at VW/Audi, has been my biggest supporter starting from intern years to graduation and throughout my first few years as a junior designer. From fixing sketches, to working on my first full-size clay model with difficult package constraints, he was a great teacher as well as a great friend. Derek Jenkins, our Sr. VP of Design, has taught me so much over the past six years not only about design, but also about being an amazing team leader who is able to inspire all our team with a great vision. Last but not least, I feel very lucky to have had two amazing female mentors in our team, Joann and Sue have been incredibly supportive. Their talents and commitment to the team and the project is really what kept our team together through the ups and downs.

Joann: I was fortunate to have amazing people around me from the beginning of my career. Being a young woman at a big car company, such as Ford Motors, could be quite intimidating, but I met other women at Ford who guided me throughout the years. One person whom I admired a lot was Susan Lampinen, a CMF Group Chief Designer at Ford and Lincoln. There was an opening for a manager position and everyone in my department applied but me. Susan called me to her office and asked why, I told her I didn’t think I was ready yet. Her response was something I will never forget…”Do you think all the guys who applied for the job are ready? Absolutely not, they get the job and learn afterwards. No one was born ready; we learn by just doing it. Go apply and show yourself what you can do, you can handle whatever you put your mind to.” Ever since, I give everything I’ve got to every project and tell myself to accept the accomplishments and take responsibility. This helps me to welcome every morning with a positive mindset to be better, do better, learn more.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Sue: The EV market has disrupted the gas powered engine market. As time goes on, we are going to continue to see this shift — this disruption. It’s better for our world, not only from fuel consumption, less fossil fuel, but also a quieter motor, less noise pollution, the addition of technology that allows us to have a safer driving experience, cars talking to each other, it’s really only the beginning and it’s a positive change for our world.

Jenny: EV technology and autonomous technology have combined. We are seeing many startup and tech companies who have not been in this field starting to join the race. I truly believe that the market is ready for EV’s because there are educated consumers who know this change is not only positive but also urgent. It’s a great opportunity for designers because we get to be innovative in both a startup setting and a traditional setting. When autonomous technology arrives to the extent that driving simply becomes a choice, everyone’s life will change. Giving kids rides to school and sports practices will never become an issue for a working mother and living far away from a job might just be all right when you can simply work or sleep in an autonomous car. Most importantly, when there’s no traffic accidents, not only will it save tens of thousands of people’s lives every year, it will allow the shape of the vehicle to be very different and the interior to be much more comfortable for passengers. This disruption will have a negative impact as well like any other. Stable jobs that were always there might be lost and family time might be affected if you don’t try to make up for it, but I believe the positive impact will be far greater in this case. I am very excited to be in the industry and to witness it in the next 10 to 20 years.

Joann: In the design world, disruptors are necessary in order to break the norm and create something new or see the problems and fix or improve them. I think it is a positive notion, otherwise there is no progress. My whole career is all about disrupting the industry with fresh new solutions, beautiful designs and creating a love affair with cars we design. But changing something for just sake of change is not the answer, every change should bring improvement.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Sue: Where there is a will, there is a way: My mom used to say that to me, it was always when I was feeling that the road was blocked or something was challenging and I was doubtful, she would just say those nine words. Keeping those words close to me, I went to university after I had two children and finished with my degree in design. Then I took a job with VW/Audi when I didn’t have any real experience in CMF. After that, I started my own business just when my oldest was going off to university. It was those words that I kept with me each step I took. I believe in those words to this day, it’s now part of who I am

Always be open to your next opportunity: Someone very special in life once said those words to me. When opportunities come my way, I try to explore and go down the path to see if it might really be a good opportunity, maybe one that was going to provide something better. Even if I wasn’t really interested, I don’t believe you can really know what a new opportunity can bring to your life, unless you are willing to be open. This very notion played out when Derek Jenkins asked me to join Lucid. I really didn’t know if I wanted to join, but I went through the process, and then finally meeting the team, convinced me that this was a very special opportunity.

Jenny: If your heart is moving, act on it now — don’t delay waiting for the right moment. When I was 18, my father asked me if I would go to California with him to study design. I was hesitant to make the decision because it was a big move and I thought maybe I needed to be ready and graduate college from South Korea first then move to California. One of my friends told me that “If you are sure that you would like to go someday, why not just go now. There’s no benefit coming from delaying what you want to do.” Till this day I feel grateful for that advice. This advice also allowed me to choose Art Center College of Design as well, because they teach transportation design from the beginning of the first year — no testing the water, just full commitment. But I was ready for it and turns out it was the perfect program for me.

When you are living a life that is committed to work, make sure you are at the place that you can build the career you want. When I was working at VW/ Audi, one of the managers told me that “I work too much” and since I was in the satellite design studio, he recommended that I move to the headquarters in Germany. He told me that “You have to choose, either enjoy the work/life balance living in Santa Monica or choose to work like this, but in the place that you can really build the car and your career together.” This advice really resonated with me when I made the decision to come to Lucid. Coming to Lucid Headquarters allowed me to design the car from concept to manufacturing and it also gave me the opportunity to grow as a design manager. Knowing all my effort is really making an impact and building a great product and company is the greatest reward.

Joann: Love yourself the most. Be true to yourself, ask yourself what makes you tingle inside. Not what other people judge you or how they grade you. We only have one precious life raised by mothers who love us unconditionally and gave us everything so we could live at fullest. When I think about that, I must be the best version of me. I’m not saying this to be a selfish person, I’m telling myself to do the right thing — be kind, be brave and be hungry for improvement, so I push myself to do more and do the things that make me proud of myself. It’s hard to find the true me when I’m caught up with hectic everyday life, so I try to ask myself every night, “Did you have a meaningful day?” “Did you love yourself, were you kind to you?” It’s never an easy answer but it helps me to start the next day with a good healthy mindset.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Sue: We are working on our next model which is Gravity, our SUV, and looking to offer new material innovations, especially sustainable materials and technologies. I’m committed to building our legacy and following our dream of building game changing EV technology and vehicles that will change the experience of car ownership.

Jenny: I am spending most of my time creating proposals and themes for the next generation of Lucid vehicles, developing the future design language and strategy. Our team is spending most of our time working on the next SUV project Gravity. We are hoping to make our space concept from Air apply to SUV scale and design the vehicle with the proportion that is very distinctive from its market space.

Joann: I’m working on many different programs, but my main focus is on the project Gravity. Another Lucid interior that will be designed based on the Space concept. I’m absolutely obsessed with timeless thoughtful design that impacts everyday life and want to create an in-car experience that is truly part of life.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Sue: A disruptor does just that — disrupts. So, I think it’s often the case that women disruptors are in the minority among men. That can be a difficult position to be in and they may face resistance. They have to present their ideas, at times to skeptical audiences and they have to have resilience in the face of that. Often, women in these situations don’t have the support of their peers that their male counterparts might, so they have to cultivate confidence. In the world of automotive design, it can be hard to go against the norm. But like anyone, we have to be willing to risk, fail, and start again.

Jenny: From my experience, designers are expected to be ‘disruptors’ in a way. We are expected to be bringing fresh ideas and unconventional opinions. And I do not believe that I had bigger challenges to do that because I was a woman. I was encouraged to be a designer who can be disruptors even in the company. Specifically, in the automotive industry it is harder to find female designers, but I can certainly see the changes every year. I am working with more female designers in the studio, seeing more female design students at car design school and more female designers sending me portfolios. I can see that there are more women getting exposed to the automotive industry early on and hope that this will continue.

Joann: I see a lot of women these days in multidisciplinary teams which wasn’t the case when I started my career in the automotive industry. I think it’s because of how the role of vehicles is changing from being just a transporter to becoming an extension of your life. From mechanical machines to intelligent computers on wheels is an inevitable role change of car and this is an exciting topic for a lot of people regardless of genders.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Sue: I joined a book club, which was really out of form for me, and we read only one book. It was called Playing it Big by Tara Mohr. It’s about encouraging women to “take up all the creative space in the world that they deserve.” Part of reading this book with a group of women made it so much more powerful, because we were able to discuss in the most vulnerable ways, and yet gain strength through that process. It was a life changing book for me, it was a turning point. I gained more confidence in my ability to have a stronger, more clear voice in my life, whether that was personal or in my profession.

Jenny: I would have to choose, Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg. I recommend this book to both men and women, especially when they are starting their careers. It gave me great insight into the reality and internal struggles that working women go through even before actually having to face the real obstacles. I also had thoughts in my head about taking care of my family as homework or a burden. And she points out that many female workers think about this even before they are married with children, and this results in pulling back from opportunities and going all-in developing their career. There was a chapter about “making your partner a real partner,” which encourages men to lean in for their family so women can lean into their career. It is all about building the culture that allows individual choices without judgement or shame.

Joann: Lovemarks. A book by Kevin Roberts. It’s the concept that is intended to replace the idea of brands. In the book, I learned that love is what is needed to rescue brands, what builds loyalty that goes beyond reason. When original crayon colors were retiring, consumers voted to “Save the Shade” and saved Burnt Sienna from retirement. When consumers love your brand, when you as a brand could create a mark in their heart, they love you, they support you, they forgive you and they grow with you. It was many years ago I was obsessed with this concept, and I still carry this idea of experiencing a love affair with the product/brand I’m designing every day. I want to create something meaningful that lasts a long time and stays in people’s hearts.

You are each people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Sue: Everyone wants to make the world a better place, and I think that climate change is one of the biggest threats to our lives — something that will affect every single person on the planet. In fact, it already is. So certainly finding a way to ease our dependence on fossil fuels is a crucial step and one I’m proud to be involved in. Beyond that, I’d hope that I could inspire people to be kind to humankind and nature, we all are trying to live together on one planet.

Jenny: What breaks my heart the most these days are seeing the hatred among different races. If I have to choose one movement it would be anti-racism. It is very serious and depressing to know some people, just because of the color of their skin, are living in fear. When I see hate crimes, especially done to the people who are helpless and already weak, it really makes me sick to my stomach.

Joann: Education. Every child in the world deserves education. To see the world beyond what was told to them, to know what’s possible, to acknowledge what is good and bad, to learn that everyone is equal and the endless possibilities to make the world a better place. There are still many places on earth where young girls are spending their whole youth carrying clean water to the family while young boys are going to school, this only can stop when their basic needs are met, so we need to help those in need to solve the problems first so that every child can get an education.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Sue: Where there’s a will there’s a way. My mom told me this many times in my life. If someone has the desire and determination to do something, they can find a method of accomplishing it. In my life and in the world of design, this certainly has been advice that I have taken to heart.

Jenny: My father always told me “Those who try cannot beat those who enjoy.” He made sure that I was not just trying hard to achieve the goal, but rather enjoying the process and caring more about the journey itself. This advice formed the decisions I made in my life and the views that I take for each design project.

Joann: Be true to yourself, love yourself and be a kind person. It was my mother who gave me the advice and who practiced it every day herself.

How can our readers follow you online?

Sue: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sue-magnusson-348985139/

Jenny: www.linkedin.com/in/jiyeonjennyha/

Instagram @jennyha430

Joann: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joann-jung-3b19b33/

Instagram @jung.joann

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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