Valentina Gentili – A chemist, a scholar, a leader

She is a pioneer in electrification development, working from day one with lithium ionic cells and their effect on batteries for vehicles. Dr. Valentina Gentili took a chance and developed her career in the industry to feel fulfilled – to see how the application she worked on was having a real impact on her customers, electric vehicle drivers.

#TheWomanBehindTheWheel

#TheWomanBehindTheWheel is an article series that highlights extraordinary women excelling in the traditionally male dominated car industry. We take a peek behind the scenes of successful female leaders, and speak to them about industry prejudices, biases and obstacles in their careers – their wins and losses. By highlighting female leaders, we hope to inspire women across the world to follow their career goals in the car and EV industry.

Some facts about Valentina Gentili:

Originally from Rome, Italy

Leading advanced battery specialist for Jaguar Land Rover

Developed a love for vehicles during childhood

Was part of the I-Pace development team

Currently lives in England

Valentina Gentili, originally from Rome, Italy, is a chemist by background but engineer by profession. She started working in engineering teams developing batteries soon after finishing her doctorate degree in electrochemistry at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. 

She said that it was one of her professors, Bruno Scrosati, that made her fall in love with electroscience during her undergraduate days, and this opened many opportunities for her, such as working with acclaimed professor Peter Bruce.

“I was in love with batteries and the fact that you could start seeing vehicles with that kind of battery was kind of exciting,” Valentina said.

Her purpose and guide

For a time when she was getting ready to turn in her dissertation many thought she’d take the traditional, expected route for people within the research area and go on to get her postdoc, continuing in academia. But for Valentina, it was clear that she needed to jump into the industry and work on applying her knowledge to change people’s lives.

“It’s not because I didn’t like academia- it was the only world that I knew so it wasn’t that at all,” she said. “But I needed the application, I needed to feel fulfilled as a person to see where what I was doing was ending up from a user perspective, I needed to see the applied chemistry and technology.”

The journey to her perfect job

She started working with vehicles as part of the research and development industries of a small company that was later on acquired by Johnson Matthey, a chemical corporation that supplies the automotive industry. But she was more than happy with that – she’s had a passion for cars since she was a young girl. One of her games was recognising models and brands by small details on cars as they drove down the highway

Her job and the hype around electrification took her to the midlands of England, the heart of the automotive industry of that country and the furthest away she’s ever been from the ocean. She had feared the move South before, but in her mid 30s, it brought her closer to the best suited opportunity for her – working at Jaguar Land Rover.

“I was in love with batteries and the fact that you could start seeing vehicles with that kind of battery was kind of exciting,” Valentina said.

Her life at JLR

Today, she’s a senior manager and advanced battery technical specialist for one of their technology teams. Valentina joined at the time that JLR was getting ready to launch the I-Pace, her first experience being part of the launching team for a vehicle. This is the same vehicle she owns to this day.

“Every time that I get into that car, I proudly drive one, I say to myself: this is my car, because I have been part of the journey and it was incredible” she said. 

As she grew into managing roles within JLR, Valentina realised that there was much more to the production than batteries – the product she develops is a vehicle, not a cell or battery. To be influential, she wanted to understand how different technical aspects affect business strategy and development, how it changed the approach to end user and customer focus and so she decided to obtain an MBA.

“It was nice to see how they are strong female figures – confident, extroverted, and they were literally dominating the room,” she said.

Other women guided her to be the leader she aspired to be

Valentina said she’s known a lot of other managers that are women, and she’s had extremely good mentors. The only place where she looked for women specifically was in coaching and mentoring from a behavioural perspective, on how to handle certain situations. She said she trusted women much more, as she saw how they would pleasantly tell people straight, but elegantly and politely.

“It was nice to see how they are strong female figures – confident, extroverted, and they were literally dominating the room,” she said. 

She admires her mentors because of the way that they passionately convey messages and channel emotions in a positive way. Valentina said how even though women are a minority, especially in leadership roles within the automotive industry, they fill the room.

Not a good ‘female manager,’ but a good manager who is a woman as well

She believes that being a woman has an impact on the way she manages a team, but that impact is not intrinsically good or bad. Valentina likes to think that her team performs because she is a good manager, instead of being a good manager for a woman – and that is the type of recognition she strives to earn.

As for diversity and representation on her team, currently the divide between men and women is about 50/50, the fact that they have a female manager plays an important role into this. 

Not only is it true that women grow in the industry and grow into higher management positions, but it’s true for younger professionals as well. For example, the two youngest members of her team are a postgrad and a current student – both female engineers. 

“Electrification is creating a path that is bringing women in,” Valentina said.

More info and author

Rocio Fortuny, Content Writer

Mail: rf@monta.app

  • Wednesday September 8th, 2021
  • News

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