School of Engineering and Computer Science

A helping hand

OU alumna helps professionals return to workforce through GM’s ‘Take 2’ program

icon of a calendarApril 11, 2019

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A helping hand
GM's Kristen Siemen with Take 2 program
OU alumna Kristen Siemen has been overseeing GM's Take 2 program, which provides training and development opportunities for men and women returning to the workforce. (Photo courtesy Kristen Siemen)

Kristen Siemen —  an alumna of Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science — has been overseeing a program through General Motors (GM) that provides training and development opportunities for men and women returning to the workforce after taking a career break of two or more years.

“The Take 2 program helps them build their professional networks, with the possibility of securing long-term employment, while working on real-world problems,” said Siemen, who serves as executive director of Validation and Test Engineering for GM.

“The program provides a smooth transition back into the workforce for women and men who often feel they may have lost critical skills during their time off that they need to be successful in the workforce,” Siemen added.

Launched in 2016, Take 2 is a 12-week internship program that provides training, professional development and networking opportunities to give participants a head start in refreshing their skills.  

GM's Kristen Siemen with Take 2 program
Kristen Siemen

“It helps them build their professional networks, with the possibility of securing long-term employment, while working on real-world problems,” she said. “The program provides a smooth transition back into the workforce for women and men who often feel they may have lost critical skills during their time off that they need to be successful in the workforce.

“The Take 2 program provides them a unique opportunity to refresh their skills and rebuild their network while working on real engineering programs for GM,” Siemen added.

The first internship class began in the spring of 2016 with a cohort of 10 female engineers, selected from among 1,000 applicants. Since then, 117 participants having completed the program. Of those, almost 80 percent have received a full-time job offer from GM, and 98 percent of those offers were accepted.

“GM recognizes that people can contribute to an organization regardless of time spent away from their professions,” Siemen said. “And one of the biggest career obstacles for women is taking time off work to raise children or care for family members, and then trying to return to the workforce several-to-many years later.

“Acknowledging the shortage of qualified, available talent — particularly with STEM backgrounds — to fill some of our most critical positions, GM recognized that this was the time to ‘be bold’ and open the possibility to where this much-needed talent might exist.”

According to Siemen, the Take 2 program provides job opportunities in vehicle product engineering, manufacturing engineering, information technology, customer care and aftersales and finance. The 7th “Take 2” cohort will begin in the fall of 2019. Positions for the cohort will be posted on the GM Careers website from mid-May thru June 2019.

“While Take 2 ‘re-launchers’ may need to train/refresh on some of the specific job functional skills, they come to GM with life experiences and leadership that you can’t just teach someone on the job,” she said.

Growing up in Warren, Mich. — the site of the GM Technical Center — Siemen dreamed of working for GM. She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oakland University in 1992, which put her closer toward that goal.

“My time at OU was fantastic,” she said. “One of the things I loved was not only that the class sizes were relatively small, which made you feel like you had a direct connection to the professors, but with OU’s proximity to many automotive OEM’s and suppliers it had a great tie to the industry.

“The partnerships our professors had on technologies and research really translated to what they taught us in class, and the projects and lab work we did at OU,” Siemen added. “It really made our classwork applicable and much more of a reality than just studying the theories.”

After graduation, Siemen was hired at Chrysler. Along with a new career, Siemen began her graduate education, and earned her master’s degree from OU in 1994 while working full-time. She said her time at OU brought many opportunities that enhanced her engineering skills.

“The emphasis OU and the SECS put on teamwork and real world applications really helped prepare me for a very challenging and exciting career in the auto industry,” Siemen said. “There are few engineers that major in the exact area they end up working in, but the training you receive as an engineer prepares you to make decisions based on data/evidence and solve complex problems regardless of the specific domain. OU did an excellent job of teaching that with a lot of hands-on applications and project-based coursework.”

After two successful years at Chrysler, Siemen began a career at General Motors, where she worked in various positions in electrical, manufacturing and interior and thermal engineering before her current role as executive director for Global Validation and Test Engineering. Siemen is responsible for the validation and test of GM’s products worldwide. The Global Validation organization is the independent voice and objective authority on engineering product readiness. Siemen’s Validation team is responsible for ensuring all GM vehicles meet customer, safety and non-emissions regulatory requirements. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, sports, and other activities with her husband and three sons.

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