April 18 - 20, 2023
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Detroit, MI
WCX  /  Program  /   Special Events  / Member Lounge

Continue the Conversation with Speakers from the Leadership Summit

All SAE Members are invited to stop by the Membership Engagement Lounge Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Hall D, Booth #212 to chat and network with various speakers from the Leadership Summit.



Kristen Tabar
Group Vice President, Advanced Mobility and Research
Toyota Motor North America

Kristen Tabar is group vice president, Advanced Mobility and Research, Toyota Motor North America. In this role, she is responsible for technical strategy and planning of advanced mobility solutions.
Previously, Tabar was group vice president, Vehicle Development and Engineering, Toyota Motor North America, Research and Development (TMNA R&D).
Prior to that role, Tabar served as vice president of Corporate Quality at TMNA headquarters in Plano, Texas. She was responsible for development, deployment, and management of the quality systems and policies of Toyota’s North American operations.
Tabar joined Toyota in 1992 as an engineer, responsible for vehicle audio component development.
Passionate about women’s leadership, Tabar supports a range of outreach and continuing development initiatives related to STEM education for women. Currently, she serves on Toyota’s Diversity Advisory Board, Audit Committee, and Investment Council.
Tabar earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. She is a member of Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and supports working groups for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Vehicle Data Privacy, and Leadership. She has also served as a member of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and as Toyota’s representative to American Center for Mobility.
Tabar has been married to her husband Dan for 25 years and has three future engineering daughters: Andrea (20), Danielle (17), and Natalie (14).


Celeste Stragand
Head of Smart City Engagements
Ford Next

As head of Smart City Engagements for Ford Motor Company’s Ford Next, Celeste is practiced at delivering customer-centric solutions that align budget with policy and regulatory demands. Celeste has served as leadership on over $3.5B worth of built work in the environment. She is a collaborative mobility maven who serves to implement transportation strategies that balance stakeholder interest and equity resulting in freedom of movement for all. She is a 40 Under 40 Denver Business Journal award winner and has served on numerous boards including Women's Transportation Seminar Colorado and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Exchange, which is responsible for technology transfer and commercialization for NCAR and UCAR scientists.
With over two decades of experience spanning business development and public affairs primarily in the transportation sector, she has led international teams focused on everything from in-vehicle audio to C-V2X pilot deployment to transportation demand management and had the fun job of overseeing the nation’s second largest bike to work day program for a stint. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Celeste holds bachelors’ degrees in Chemistry and English. She received her Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She enjoys cycling, yoga, travel and spending time with her husband, and daughter.


Denise Gray
Head of External Affairs and Government Regulations, North America
LG Energy Solution Michigan Inc.

Denise Gray is Head of External Affairs and Government Relations, North America LG Energy Solution Michigan Inc.(LGES MI), a U.S subsidiary of LG Energy Solution, Ltd. a South Korean corporation. Former positions included President and Board of Director Member, LG Energy Solution Michigan Inc, Tech Center. In that role, her team developed battery solutions for automotive and non-automotive applications.

Denise holds several board of director and membership positions:

  • Board Member of Original Equipment Supplier Association
  • Member of United States Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, since 2021
  • Member of The National Academy of Engineering, since 2022
  • Member of the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Tenneco Inc. Board of Director Member, since 2019
  • Canadian National Railway Board of Director Member, since 2021

Prior to her LG positions, Denise held automotive leadership positions with AVL List GmbH in Graz, Austria and Atieva (now Lucid Motors) in Redwood City, California. The vast majority of her professional career (30 years) was with General Motors, where she spearheaded efforts in vehicle electrical and propulsion systems controls and software, including battery systems. Denise holds a BSEE degree from Kettering University (1986) and a MSES from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2000).




Alex Ehrett
Public Policy & Market Development, West Region
ABB E-mobility Inc.

As part of the external affairs team at ABB E-mobility, Alex Ehrett leads public policy and market development efforts in the Western United States. In this role, she focuses on managing legislative and regulatory policy engagement on transportation electrification and electric vehicle charging infrastructure issues with key state agencies, utilities, and cities. Prior to ABB E-mobility, Alex acted as a consultant for GBSM, Inc. where she worked closely with and advocated for private entities, local municipalities, and state agencies in the West to implement large scale transportation and utility projects.
She currently resides in Salt Lake City and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from John Carroll University.


Jacquelyn Birdsall
Senior Engineering Manager, Fuel Cell Integration Group
Toyota Motor Engineering & Mfg NA Inc.

Jacquelyn Birdsall is the Senior Engineering Manager of the Fuel Cell Integration Group at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development. The mission of her group is to improve quality of life for all by developing fuel cell solutions to replace gasoline and diesel engines.
Prior to joining Toyota in 2012 Birdsall held several roles in the automotive industry. She has over nineteen years of experience in hydrogen, including a thirteen-month assignment at the Toyota Motor Corporation Global Headquarters in Japan working on the 2021 Toyota Mirai. In addition to her activities in hydrogen, Birdsall takes personal interest in promoting STEM learning and diversity within the industry. In 2015 she was honored by the Manufacturing Institute as an Emerging Leader and by Automotive News as Rising Star.
Birdsall received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University (previously General Motors Institute).


Amy Ford
Vice President, Transportation Innovation Lead
Global Transportation, AECOM

Amy Ford leads Innovation Transportation for the Global Transportation business at AECOM (NYSE:ACM), the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services across the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to consulting and construction management. Ms. Ford joined the company in March 2022.
A national leader helping communities and governments leverage innovation and advanced mobility solutions to elevate how they move people, data and goods, Ms. Ford focuses on integrating transportation technology services, such as automated and connected vehicles, cooperative ITS, electrification, on-demand mobility, user mobility fees and payment and more. Her teams also focus on emerging technologies, including advanced air mobility and solutions that help clients meet their decarbonization ambitions.
Prior to joining AECOM, Ms. Ford led the strategic direction and activities of the Mobility of Demand (MOD) Alliance and Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s policy programs focused on transportation technology and mobility. Ms. Ford also served as the Chief of Advanced Mobility for the Colorado Department of Transportation where she was responsible for accelerating innovation programs, policies and projects, including connected and autonomous vehicles, mobility operations, workforce of the future, communications and other transportation technologies. She also chaired Colorado’s Autonomous Mobility Task Force.

Keynote Speaker

Alba Colon
Director of Competition Systems
Hendrick Motorsports

In January 2018, decorated auto racing engineer Alba Colón joined Hendrick Motorsports as director of competition systems. She works to enhance capabilities that directly support at-track competition for the 14-time NASCAR Cup Series champions with responsibility for critical areas including data analytics and communication technologies, team operations center among others.
Long regarded as one of the most influential women in NASCAR, Colón came to Hendrick Motorsports after a well-chronicled career with General Motors that spanned more than two decades. While at GM, she served as the NASCAR Cup Series program manager for the Chevrolet brand from 2001 until 2017. Under Colón’s charge, Chevrolet was the most dominant manufacturer in the NASCAR Cup Series, amassing 286 race wins, 12 driver championships and 14 manufacturer titles.
Colón has received numerous honors for her pioneering work. In 2017, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation presented her with the STEM Award for contributions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She was honored as one of Business Insider’s 23 Most Powerful Women Engineers in the World in 2015. In 2021, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers presented her the prestigious Kate Gleason Award.

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