Tell us about one of your favorite neighborhoods in Detroit and what makes it unique?

I’m not good at picking favorites! My favorite thing about the neighborhoods in Detroit is that they are all really unique and different. I have never experienced a city that has such distinct areas. Southwest and Corktown feel like they could be different cities. Even the areas that have been heavily redeveloped have managed to maintain an individual personality. Each neighborhood offers a new and different perspective of Detroit. I’ll never run out of places to explore!

Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on, what are you learning from the experience?

We just finished up our third Challenge with the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). I was on the buyer education team, working to better prepare buyers for the financial commitment of rehabilitating a house. Houses can be purchased from the DLBA for as little as $1000. Buyers don’t realize that it will take tens of thousands of dollars to make that house a habitable home, and money isn’t the only obstacle to becoming a homeowner. There is a lot of jargon and technical information that can be difficult to understand. I will definitely be prepared when I buy a house in the future!

Detroit is home to the largest land bank in the nation. The DLBA is setting the precedent for how these organizations should function. The spotlight, however, has brought both positive and negative attention. I think one of the biggest things I have learned from this experience is to do research so that you can form your own educated opinion about controversial topics.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

View from the roof of Lear’s downtown office

My host company is Lear Corporation. I am a JIT (Just In Time) Seat Complete Engineer. In other words, I support the development and manufacturing of automotive vehicle seats. The plant I support is in Mexico, so I have been taking frequent trips there as we prepare to launch the 2019 Model Year program. My primary responsibilities include initiating cost-saving ideas and helping to resolve quality and safety issues as they arise. Lear Corporation is a Tier I automotive supplier, supplying vehicle seats and electronic systems to a wide variety of automotive manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

What kind of impact do you hope to have with your host company and within the city?

My second week of work, my team spent an afternoon volunteering at a food bank organizing food. A few months later, we adopted a family for the holidays, buying, wrapping and delivering presents for them. My coworkers are so hardworking and professional at work, it was amazing to see them switch gears and apply that energy and work ethic to helping others. I look forward to seeing this work continue!

What are you most looking forward to during spring time in Detroit?

Going outside! I moved to Michigan last September and haven’t really had a chance to explore, due to the bitterly cold temperatures. I really want to take a bike ride along the riverfront and spend more time just walking around, enjoying the day.

How do you believe your fellowship will shape your career moving forward?

This fellowship has confirmed that I need a career where I can use my skills to make peoples lives. I think engineers are often envisioned as someone who sits in front of a computer all day and never talks to anyone, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Challenge Detroit has shown me that there is more out there and I intend to continue finding ways to combine my passions.

To learn more about Johnnie’s experiences in Detroit this year, check out her