Managing the life cycle of powertrain software development

Xingyi Wang brings emotion to the road: With a degree in electrical engineering, she and her team in Beijing, China, coordinate the global powertrain software release for Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder gasoline engines - ensuring that Mercedes-Benz vehicles offer a perfect driving experience and great driving pleasure. In her interview, Xingyi Wang explains why she has been passionate about electrical engineering since her school days, what her studies in Germany have to do with her family, and why her job sometimes requires negotiating skills.

Thousands of functions for the powertrain

Ms. Wang, what is particularly important to you when it comes to software development for Mercedes-Benz powertrains?

At Daimler, we aim to offer our customers only the best driving experience. Powertrain software ensures that our engines react to the driver's wishes correctly and transfer the motion to the road - for example when the gas pedal is pressed or the gear is changed. At the same time, of course, our engines should consume as little fuel as possible and have a long service life. There are complex processes behind this. With thousands of functions in the powertrain software, we are enabled for the high-precision control of our powertrain. There are hundreds of engineers worldwide behind the development of this complex powertrain software.

And your team is where everything comes together?

In the Powertrain Software Coordination team in Beijing we collaborate with many departments. We are the interface between our global project teams, including powertrain calibration teams in China. We communicate with our calibration engineers from different function units, and control the timeline of the powertrain software development. Our team is also responsible to bring the developed software to the units that use the powertrain software in the further value creation process, for example to the vehicle production plants, or to the after-sales dealers for our customers. It’s not only about new engines. We permanently work on optimizing the software of our current engines. We are currently working on the latest software version for our four-cylinder gasoline engine M 260 / M 264, which is an engine type applied in a variety of Mercedes car models, from the most compact model (A-class) to the “muscle vehicle” G-class.

Thousands of functions are required for precise control of our powertrain. Hundreds of project team members around the world are working on solutions to ensure that our powertrains offer the best driving pleasure, efficiency and quality for the customer.

How do you and your team accompany the development for such powertrain software?

We are constantly communicating with the various specialist units both domestic and international. For example with our powertrain development teams in China, Stuttgart or with colleagues who are in contact with workshops and customers and give us important feedback to further improve our software. I deal with a lot of people every day, which is what I love most about my job. Good communication is, of course, very important - and sometimes also negotiation skills.

Xingyi Wang and her team are constantly communicating with the various specialist units both domestic and international.

Why negotiation skills?

When we create the software development schedule, we need to understand what is important for each unit and consolidate all the different requirements. Here's one example: In order to be able to evaluate the powertrains during tests on the test bench or test track, our engine development department needs software that supplies very precise data. For other units, precision is of course important as well, but the quick availability of a software version with a smaller range of functions has a higher priority. Our job is to fit both requirements.

And what does your team look like?

As a sub-team leader, I am responsible for six colleagues. We are all engineers, with different specialties - from electrical engineering to mechanical and automotive engineering. We complement each other perfectly, and I am always thrilled by the intelligent solutions that my colleagues come up with for the development of our powertrain software. There is a lot of passion and ambition in it.

What characterizes Daimler as an employer for you?

For me as an engineer, Daimler simply has a very special appeal. I have so many opportunities to progress here and work on the future of mobility. The company has a very open atmosphere and a lot of knowledge exchange, which is the perfect environment for innovation. And of course it's cool to work for a company like Daimler. I love the design of our vehicles, especially the new sporty Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé. These models are particularly elegant.

Have you always been this enthusiastic about technology?

My parents are both engineers, and since I was a child, I have been fascinated by what is possible, when knowledge of materials and physical laws is combined in a meaningful way. Then later in school we had a project where we built a simple version of a radio out of electrical components. That was my first contact with electrical engineering, and I was immediately electrified – in a figurative sense. That's why I later decided to study electrical engineering.

You moved from China to Germany for your studies. How did that come about?

After graduating from high school, I wanted to gain experience outside of China and get to know other countries. I did some research and had selected several universities around the world that I was interested in. My mother is a mechanical engineer and said to me: "If you want to be an engineer, go to Germany." (laughs). And then in the spring of 2006 I started my bachelor's degree at Aachen University of Applied Sciences, and after bachelor graduation continued my master study at RWTH Aachen.

"The open atmosphere and the numerous opportunities to work on the future of mobility characterizes Daimler as a great employer."

You lived in Germany for ten years. How did you experience the country?

People are very open and want to make a difference. After completing my master's degree at RWTH Aachen University, I had the opportunity to spend two years gaining experience in the automotive industry. In Germany, I learned to appreciate the very open-minded culture. The direct feedback was unusual for me at first, but the open exchange often brings completely new perspectives. I also love the beautiful landscapes in Germany. From downtown Aachen, you can be in the middle of nature with forests and rivers in just a few minutes - I really enjoyed that.

And how did you end up at Daimler?

At that time, I was working in Germany for an automobile supplier company, and heard about an exciting position at the Daimler site in Beijing in the Powertrain Software unit. I had an interview with my supervisor at that time, and it was an instant fit. After joining my team in Beijing, I also had the opportunity to go to Germany for another year, to the Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart. That was another great experience, where I could learn a lot both on advanced processes and on technology. I still work with many of the colleagues I met back then.

One last personal question: If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I think I would pass on that. The past is past and cannot be changed - and when traveling into the future, the spoiler is already programmed (laughs). Helping to shape the future today is what drives me a lot.

In person: In Xingyi Wang's (32) family, enthusiasm for technology plays a great part. Both her father and mother are engineers. Fascinated by electronics, Xingyi Wang decided to study electrical engineering and moved from her home country China to Germany. During her studies in Aachen, Xingyi Wang not only acquired her expertise in electrical engineering, but also discovered her fondness for German home cooking - Mettbrötchen (a type of bread roll often topped with pork) are still among her favorite snacks. In her spare time, Xingyi Wang likes to spend time with her family or plays some video games, which provide a perfect balance between relaxing and staying focused during the quest solving.

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