As a California transplant, Janis Ambrose Shard misses many things about her home state. The mountain views? Yes. Her nearly four-hour daily commute on the infamous I-405? Not a chance.
Janis, who recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary with Toyota Motor North America, transferred to the corporation’s new North American headquarters in Plano two years ago. After commenting on her appreciation for her now 15-minute commute to work, Janis filled us in on her current role at Toyota.
In her position as senior manager of the cross carline product planning and strategy department, she leads a team of six individuals responsible for forecasting automotive trends in safety, color and materials, and emerging technology such as self-driving cars.
“Wouldn’t it be great if your vehicle could be in a heavy traffic mode where it is moving with the speed of traffic, and stopping and starting on its own?” Janis asked.
But as she explained, this type of new technology is comprised by many components, and the costs can add up. “We don’t want all these technologies to just be for the luxury vehicles,” Janis said. “All of us would like to have that opportunity to relax, especially sitting in traffic.”
In addition to emerging tech, her team researches automotive safety, which really goes hand-in-hand with technology. “It’s a two-pronged approach. If a vehicle is going to do more on its own, it needs to be done safely.”
Even if the automotive industry is not quite there in manufacturing a completely autonomous car, at least one can be comfortable when stuck on the road during rush hour. Janis’ team is also responsible for the look and feel of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
“Every few years [our team] goes through the process of identifying key societal trends in color and materials,” Janis said. “We utilize websites and attend seminars, but it is also about understanding societal trends.”
However, she explained, it can be a tricky process. “Just because a color or finish is everywhere does not mean it’s going to translate well to the automotive industry. Cars need residual value; people need to be able to resell their car.”
Giving us a peek behind the curtain, Janis said exterior color trends are moving toward rich pigments: Picture deep red and blue hues. In terms of the car’s interior, you’ll see softer colors and finishes engulfing drivers in what Janis describes as a “warm hug.”
Although no two days for Janis are quite the same, she provided a general overview of her average day as a cross carline manager.
A Day in the Life of a Cross Carline Manager
7 30 a.m. When Janis arrives at the office she starts her day by checking emails. Employees at the Plano campus are in constant communication with Toyota Motor Corporation headquarters in Japan. Since there is such a drastic time difference – literally night and day – much of the interaction between the two entities takes place while one side is sleeping and the other is at the office.
8 a.m. Janis has three standing meetings each morning, one for each of the three pillars she heads up – technology, safety, and colors and materials. A typical meeting agenda includes working with her color material finish team, vehicle planners and depending on the circumstances, material engineering and marketing individuals.
11 30 a.m. If Janis isn’t wrapping up work from her morning of meetings, she enjoys a lunch break at a nearby Legacy West restaurant.
1 p.m. More. Meetings. Although many decisions are made during morning meetings, each one has its own plan and implementation process, such as exterior paint timelines for weather testing. And if it is a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, Janis might be preparing for an evening video conference with Japan.
5 p.m. One final email check, and Janis is almost ready for her 15-minute commute home to McKinney, a much appreciated change from her California commute.
5 30 p.m. If it’s a Monday, Janis wraps up her work for the day and heads to ManeGait, an organization offering therapeutic horsemanship for adults and children, where she’s volunteered since January 2018.
7 p.m. Arriving at the ManeGait stables, she preps her horse for an evening therapy session. As a horse leader, Janis guides the horse through each session. She also volunteers at ManeGait on Friday mornings, and finds her time spent at the non-profit center very fulfilling.Toyota Motor North America >