When it comes to making career swaps, many often hesitate and hold back, often due to the fear of uncertainties. However, after 30 years of dedicated service at General Motors (GM), Denise Gray made a bold decision to resign to explore a new job in electric car battery technology. All she wanted was an opportunity to be recognized for her talent.
Although she had executed one of the most revolutionary products in the history of General Motors at the time, it did not fill the vacuum she felt within her. She left the company before the volt-powered vehicle was launched, however, her influence was making waves in the car manufacturing industry.
Since she took up her role as President of LG Energy Solution Michigan Inc.Tech Center, the North American subsidiary of LG Chem, the battery systems have been the most preferred choice for top-on-the-range vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt and Chrysler Pacifica hybrid-electric vehicles.
The company’s battery cells are also used in vehicles such as Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Renault, Smart, Volkswagen, Volvo, etc. LG Chem is the only entity that has a global presence in China, the United States, and Europe, controlling at least 90 percent of the batteries used by electric vehicles in the world, according to LG.
She once worked closely with LG Chem while at General Motors’ lithium-ion battery system that was used in the original Chevrolet Volt. LG Chem is the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of battery systems for electric vehicles.
What this meant was that her responsibility was huge, however, the challenges she experienced were not different or unfamiliar compared to those she encountered when she started her career at General Motors.
In the early stages of her career, she showed a lot of potential in designing electrical components. She was part of the team that built the 1997 Corvette and rose through the ranks to oversee General Motors’ development of hybrid battery systems. She also became the director of transmission controls, as well as the director of engine and transmission software and control systems integration, according to Black Engineer.
Some may attribute her impressive track record over the years to a rich family history of auto workers. Her whole family has been working in the car industry since she was a child, and family conversations have always centered on vehicles and their components since growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many of her family members have been involved in car assembling, including her mother, who worked at General Motors, stabilizing bars and other parts in a General Motors forge plant, according to green car reports. Denise attributes her success to her mother; her determination and work ethic inspired her journey to pursue innovation in the electric car industry.
In 2006, she nurtured the dream of working in a space that would change the phase of car manufacturing. Her position at LG Chem is the highest rank a black woman had attained in the company’s history.
Denise’s stellar achievements earned her a place in the co-op Hall of Fame at her alma mater, Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. This was the starting point of building the vision of what she is today, a giant in electric car battery manufacturing.