September 2016 | 590 words | 2-minute read
Danella Bagnall, Jaguar Land Rover's (JLR) first-ever female vehicle programme director, has a passion for creating beautiful cars and playing an evangelist to young women taking up engineering as a profession.
Danella Bagnall discovered a passion for engineering and problem-solving when she was still in school – an aptitude for Maths and Science, combined with the strong industrial history of Coventry where she grew up, soon led her to what was then known as Austin Rover, where she joined as a technical apprentice.
"I joined them because they offered me the opportunity to study for a degree. After graduating I started working on seat structures in the body engineering department," she recalls. Twenty-nine years on, Danella's enthusiasm and appetite for engineering challenges and winning solutions have only increased with every new project she has taken up, and every iconic JLR vehicle she has lent her expertise to.
Strive for perfection
Her enviable repertoire includes the Discovery 3, the original Range Rover Sport and the Jaguar XJ. Having pulled these projects off with panache, Danella was soon leading the body engineering team to deliver the all-new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.
Danella was also in charge of the Evoque convertible's entire manufacturing process, all the way from the blueprint to final production. Leading the Jaguar F-Pace project as chief product engineer has been another proud chapter in her dream career with JLR.
"Each project I worked on increased my technical and leadership responsibility and I have brought some amazing cars to life," she says with pride. "I've had a great career so far at JLR and there is more to come."
Promoting women in engineering
When she is not creating beautiful cars, Danella spends her time evangelising the cause of engineering and the need for bringing more women into this space. Although she admits that there are more women in engineering than when she started her career, she believes that there's a lot more distance to cover. She does her bit by mentoring young engineers and by visiting universities and colleges, talking to young women about the magic of engineering.
"JLR runs initiatives like "Young Women in the Know" where we bring school children into our factories and engineering areas – so they can see engineering happening in real time! It's about capturing hearts and minds at an early age," she says. Danella cites a hugely gratifying moment when a young female engineer she had mentored as part of the Range Rover Evoque Wise Scholarship, recently sent her a 'thank you' note on her first day of work at JLR.
Her contribution to the field of engineering has brought her plenty of recognition, from within JLR as well as from the external world. In 2015, she was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Wolverhampton's science and engineering faculty for her work as an engineering role model; and in 2016, she featured in Autocar's list of 100 outstanding British women in the global automotive industry – achievements that, she hopes, will inspire more young women to take up engineering.
"One of the reasons I like engineering so much is that I love solving problems. There is always an answer if you get the right group of people together to develop a solution," she says. "I get a real buzz from working collaboratively and cross functionally – I always encourage my teams to work in this way too. To find the "win-win" solution – that's always the best!"
Text by Sangeeta Menon. Danella is presently Executive Vice-President, Product Engineering China and Asia Pacific, Jaguar Land Rover