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Leadership Spotlight: Sophie Wang
Jan 27, 2022 | By Velodyne Lidar
Women at Velodyne: Sophie Wang, Vice President System Engineering and Validation

Sophie Wang is Vice President, System Engineering and Validation at Velodyne Lidar. She joined Velodyne in early 2019 and her team is responsible for all aspects of lidar and related systems validation and calibration. This includes confirming that our lidar sensor designs meet operational and technical specification requirements under all relevant operating conditions and environments. It also includes certifying the readiness of our lidar sensors to pass through the New Product Introduction (NPI) phase and move to production.

Sophie holds a PhD degree in Optical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prior to joining Velodyne, she spent more than ten years in the telecommunications industry in a few different roles, from engineer to engineering management positions. These positions ranged across a vertically integrated organization: from chip to subassembly to module level, with a focus on solving all kinds of product engineering issues to effectively bridge design and successful volume production.

We chatted with Sophie to learn more about her and her work at Velodyne.

Velodyne Lidar Leadership Spotlight on Sophie Wang, Vice President System Engineering and Validation - Sophie at Mt Rainier
Sophie Wang at Mt Rainier National Park

Q: What’s the mission of the systems validation team?

Sophie: My team’s mission is to calibrate, test and validate all of Velodyne’s new product design and design changes. We work closely with the product design, development and manufacturing groups to ensure we develop high-quality lidar sensors that meet different levels of specification and reliability requirements, and successfully transfer them to our manufacturing partners for volume production.

As the commercial and product management teams are bringing in new exciting business opportunities, a product validation plan and requirement is often a critical element for sustained partnership. The system validation team will develop and drive product validation plans together with project management teams and adjacent teams.

Q: Can you share some insights into what goes on in the “day in the life” of the validation team?

Sophie: We have a few different roles in the system engineering and validation group. Depending on which role we are playing on a specific day, we can be found doing intrinsic lidar distance and reflectivity calibration, simulating optical stray light impact to lidar performance, or characterizing lidar field of view and range accuracy performance across different settings.

We plan and execute validation tests of new design or process changes, travel to a third party test lab to test the robustness of our lidar, write testing scripts, analyze and report the validation results. Our team also conducts root cause analysis of production and validation failures in development phase. We are involved in discussions with cross functional groups for corrective actions and improvement plan execution to constantly make our lidar better.

Q: You are on the frontline in assessing the readiness of our lidar sensors for the marketplace. Can you comment on the quality of Velodyne’s sensors?

Sophie: It is our mission to validate and certify the performance and reliability of our lidars. We hold a high-quality standard to all of our sensors through EVT (Engineering Validation Test) and DVT (Design Validation Test) processes. In these processes, sensors in different product development phases are function/performance and reliability/robustness tested according to international road vehicle standard or other application based industrial standards. (Click here to see Velodyne’s sensor reliability testing in action.)

Q: You were a speaker at the Disruptive Women Powering Our Autonomous Future conference, which highlighted women leading autonomous vehicle companies, design, technology and ethics. What were your top takeaways from participating in the event?

Sophie: It was awesome and very encouraging to see many women engineers and engineering leaders in this traditionally male-dominant field! We may continue to have less women representatives in autonomous industry for a long way to come.

However, in my humble view, gender should never be a variable in the function of personal impact and capability in professional world. I am infinitely appreciative to all my managers and colleagues that I was fortunate to have had the pleasure to work with, for they have helped to shape my view.

Sophie Wang, VP Systems Validation and Engineering at Velodyne Lidar, on a visit to Mt Rainier National Park
Sophie on her hiking trip to Mt. Rainier National Park

Q: Please share a little about your life outside the work world.

Sophie: I am a curious person with a long list of things and places that I’d like to try and explore outside the work life. But as a mom of two (soon to be 8 and 12), I find myself always short of a few hours for this and that. Yeah, that’s just an excuse.

I love nature and believe in a nature fix. As such, I’ve enjoyed many of the Bay Area hiking trails with friends and family, although I often have to beg or threaten a little to get the kids to agree to go hiking. They do always end up having a great time once outside!

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the luxury (thanks to the support of my family) to fly to Oregon this summer, met with my hiking group and hiked the beautiful Mount Rainier (my favorite National Park) and a few other surrounding places. I also find yoga very restoring and have been practicing it for many years.    

About Velodyne Lidar

Velodyne Lidar (Nasdaq: VLDR, VLDRW) ushered in a new era of autonomous technology with the invention of real-time surround view lidar sensors. Velodyne, the global leader in lidar, is known for its broad portfolio of breakthrough lidar technologies. Velodyne’s revolutionary sensor and software solutions provide flexibility, quality and performance to meet the needs of a wide range of industries, including robotics, industrial, autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Through continuous innovation, Velodyne strives to transform lives and communities by advancing safer mobility for all.

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