Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Tom Hall

Tom Hall is Senior Engineering Manager of Chassis Controls & Brake Systems at Faraday Future. Faraday is a California-based mobility company comprised of a global team of automotive and technology experts. The company plans to redefine the automotive experience by delivering seamlessly connected electric vehicles & future mobility solutions that will fit the needs of tomorrow’s population. In the following Q&A, Tom shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.

TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?

TH: My title is Senior Engineering Manager of Chassis Controls & Brake Systems at Faraday Future. We are developing a portfolio of cutting edge Pure Electric Vehicles. My team is responsible for developing world-class Brake & Chassis Control Systems utilizing a fully electric vehicle architecture. In this role, Chassis Controls has now expanded beyond the traditional brake-based technologies into a highly integrated steering, suspension and powertrain system that, in combination, manages the primary driving dynamics of motion and change of motion in all three dimensions, with or without the driver.

TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?

TH: I’ve never attempted to have a “style,” of leadership, although I’m sure people will say that I don’t Suffer Fools very well. I hope my team members over the year have considered me willing to listen to their positions, made them prepared to answer direct questions and be persuasive, and to consider the situation from the motivation of the other side. I’ve always enjoyed sports and found many parallels to this in my professional life, and was inspired by the book Bo’s Lasting Lessons. The ability to transfer experiences from sports into highly successful leadership principles is something I find quite powerful in its simplicity.  I’m proud to encounter many of my former team members in high ranking positions, and I’d like to think a little of me rubbed off on them.

TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

TH: One of my team’s biggest challenges is Developing Brake & Chassis Systems for multiple vehicles simultaneously, while the vehicles themselves are currently being developed, and while functional areas of the company are also in development. In short, there is a massive amount of development going on within the company and in each department.  However, we thrive on this challenge by tapping into and merging generations of industry experience, with the raw spirit of a West Coast Startup. This gives us a unique blend of talent with powerful possibilities.

TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?

TH: Fundamentally, you need to have acquired the basic skills in Engineering. Similarly, in our startup environment, it is really important to find people that have a natural curiosity to take risk, but also the maturity to do it in a calculated way. An attitude to succeed against obstacles and impediments, honesty to admit shortcomings, a passion for all things electromechanical, and evidence of a willingness to self-learn every day are all critical to success.  From an engineering leadership standpoint, these traits are fundamental; somebody can usually teach you most everything else.

TBR: What was your first job in Industry?

TH: My first job was as a Vehicle Development Engineer for Chassis Control Systems at ITT-Teves. This company now exists as a division within Continental. In this early role, Chassis Controls meant ABS. I developed demonstrator vehicles, calibrated control algorithms, and conducted vehicle performance tests. It has changed so much.

TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?

TH: Don’t expect your Manager to tell you what to do next. I remember one experience early in my career that I received a new assignment in a re-org that had never existed in the company before. I got really frustrated that nobody came to tell me what they expected me to do. I didn’t handle it very well until the Chief told me he had confidence that I would find a way to positively contribute. I remember him telling me, “Who do you think tells me what to do every day?” That thought had never occurred to me before then.

Also, the advice to pursue an advanced degree in a different discipline was a great addition to my business knowledge, and helped me grow as a leader. For me, this advanced degree was in Finance. That experience added a lot of depth to my perspective on things; I wish I had done it 10 years sooner.

TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:

TH: I sit on airplanes and in hotels a lot these days, so I’m lost without my tablet and something to read. I read a lot of non-fiction, history, and business history. I read several books in close succession about the 2009 Automotive Crisis. It was very interesting to have lived through that crisis and then read about it from the perspectives of others from inside the auto Industry and the Government. I wonder what we have all learned?

TBR: Who or what has influenced you the most in your career?

TH: I grew up in a typical Midwest Automotive family and my father had a long career as an Engineering Manager for Pontiac Motor Division. My father instilled my confidence to trust that I can take anything apart and fix it, while learning how different objects worked and why they failed.

I can’t recall a single time that someone was hired to fix anything in our family. Whether it was a car, house, airplane, or tractor, our approach was: “use the right tools and figure it out.”

My father also demonstrates humility that few can match, and has an attitude of: “find it, fix it, and move on to the next challenge.”

A couple of quotes that have served me well:

“Better to be silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

“Brake people are not lucky people.” Prove the result with Data

TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?

TH: Autonomy & Interconnectivity in the entire Vehicle Domain is, and will continue to expand at an astonishing pace. This will certainly be true in the Chassis Space as well. The interdependence and redundancy challenges in many cases will dwarf the primary function. It will be interesting to see how the public accepts the business case for the highly Automated Vehicle System that is now on our doorstep. Autonomous functionality has the potential to be a blindspot for the traditional Midwest Automotive community, but is something that Faraday Future is ingraining into our product portfolio as part of our company’s DNA. 

TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.

TH: I was adopted as an infant. I even forget about this myself until somebody brings up the topic. I’ve always believed we are all born with a certain allotment of luck and I used up a big chunk of mine right in the beginning (Hence the brake quote, I suppose).

I wish there was an opportunity to say more about all the exciting things developing in the company, but that story will get told once the world see’s what we have been doing.

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