Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
Listening to Ven Lai on the phone, you can practically see her smile as she talks about her job designing cars for Chevrolet. But it's when she describes the rigorous tests that were applied to the marshmallow-y, creamy beige interior of the Spark, which debuted earlier this month at the New York International Auto Show, that she gets really animated.
Developing a material. Sticking it under an artificial light box to observe how the color changes. Matching it to other materials in the same color. Checking how they, together, read in daylight, showroom light, and early-morning light. Making sure the sun streaming in through the windshield won't fade them and that they won't erode when you touch them with your sunscreen-coated fingers. This is all the effort and thinking that went into your car, and this is what Lai does as lead designer for global Chevrolet passenger cars and crossovers.
"One thing I really love about automotive design is how many elements we really touch upon," she says. "It's a car—it's a huge investment—and it's really rewarding knowing the product you designed is appreciated by the driver, the passenger, the family, their kids, the coworkers, and the pets. It's really part of their lifestyle and their daily activities."
As a fashion design and applied textiles major at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Lai, 30, says she learned the same kind of functional, customer-first approach she takes today—in fact, she calls the transition from interning at the Gap and placing second in the CFDA/Target incubator competition to choosing automobile trims "effortless," minus the new vocabulary. (Look up metamerism in your free time.)
And even if the car industry is only about 25 percent women (opens in new tab), Lai says switching to a male-dominated field was similarly easy, given the supportive environment she found at Chevrolet and her own willingness to seek out mentors.
"There are things I know, and there are things I don't know. And there are things I want to learn and grow in. That was the best advice I've gotten: to keep that up because the support you have around you is really what makes a product phenomenal. You can't do this job alone."
You should also check out:
6 Things Successful Women Never Say (opens in new tab)
8 Badass Jobs You've Never Heard of Before (opens in new tab)
Thank God: Ivanka Trump Is Redefining the Idea of the "Working Woman" (opens in new tab)
Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.
Ciara Has Fully Committed to Fall With Pumpkin-Colored Hair
She understood the assignment.
By Samantha Holender
Worth It: TACORI
Their meticulously crafted rings stand the test of time.
The Best Shampoos and Conditioners Ever
Curly hair, fine hair, textured hair—we've got you covered.
By Julia Marzovilla
Peloton’s Selena Samuela on Turning Tragedy Into Strength
Before becoming a powerhouse cycling instructor, Selena Samuela was an immigrant trying to adjust to new environments and new versions of herself.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
This Mutual Fund Firm Is Helping to Create a More Sustainable Future
Amy Domini and her firm, Domini Impact Investments LLC, are inspiring a greater and greener world—one investor at a time.
Power Players Build on Success
"The New Normal" left some brands stronger than ever. We asked then what lies ahead.
By Maria Ricapito
Don't Stress! You Can Get in Good Shape Money-wise
Yes, maybe you eat paleo and have mastered crow pose, but do you practice financial wellness?
By Sallie Krawcheck
The Book Club Revolution
Lots of women are voracious readers. Other women are capitalizing on that.
By Lily Herman
The Future of Women and Work
The pandemic has completely upended how we do our jobs. This is Marie Claire's guide to navigating your career in a COVID-19 world.
By Megan DiTrolio
Black-Owned Coworking Spaces Are Providing a Safe Haven for POC
For people of color, many of whom prefer to WFH, inclusive coworking spaces don't just offer a place to work—they cultivate community.
By Megan DiTrolio
Where Did All My Work Friends Go?
The pandemic has forced our work friendships to evolve. Will they ever be the same?
By Rachel Epstein