Engineering Alumni Spotlight: Keyuna Evans
Successful engineers possess high levels of versatility. Problem solving and analytical thinking skills learned through engineering can often be applied to other fields, including law. Keyuna Evans, BSIE ’05, personifies this sort of professional agility. She spent several years in the auto industry working among cross-functional teams, suppliers and OEMs to ensure quality in manufacturing. After graduating from law school and developing a strong working knowledge of business strategy, patent law and intellectual property, she completed the transition to her current role as corporate council at Microsoft.
Can you please describe your career path?
My career journey has not been traditional, but it is a path that I am enjoying. I have changed professions, worked overseas and lived in several states across the country. My first job was in the Chrysler Institute Engineering (CIE) program, which allowed me to rotate every three to four months in various capacities throughout Chrysler’s manufacturing organization. I held several roles as a production supervisor, manufacturing engineer, quality engineer and more. I worked in divisions like powertrain, assembly, advanced manufacturing engineering and stamping. While working for Chrysler, I received a master’s in engineering management from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Although my experience at Daimler Chrysler was valuable and productive, I left and pursued other roles in engineering at automotive suppliers, Federal Mogul, International Automotive Components and Detroit Thermal Systems. During my time at these companies, I was able to expand my knowledge in engineering through a different lens by working for tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers. The roles I held allowed me to learn and understand the APQP (advanced product quality plan), and implement or improve processes that produced quality products for the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers, PPAP (production part approval process), and several other techniques. Overall, the work in engineering was very challenging, but rewarding and productive.
Notwithstanding the stimulating and enriching projects received as an engineer, I decided to change course to pursue a career in law. I attended the University of Detroit Mercy Law School and clerked at Reising Ethington, an intellectual property firm. After graduating, I accepted a role in Microsoft’s Intellectual Property Group counseling and supporting engineering teams, and managing Microsoft’s corporate patent portfolio.
Currently, I am corporate counsel for Microsoft’s marketing and consumer business. I advise and counsel a multi-million-dollar business, Modern Work Marketing for Small Commercial Enterprises.
Describe the ways you’ve stayed connected to WSU since graduation.
I live in Seattle, but I am always surprised to find graduates of Wayne State University. Meeting alumni from WSU allows me to share with them my experience as an undergrad at Wayne State. In the past, I attended networking events at the College of Engineering. Anytime I’m in the Metro Detroit Area, I always stop through campus to see how the university continues to transition since I was a student.
Recently, I decided to volunteer for the Industry Mentor Program and joined the Women Engineering Executive Leadership Society. I look forward to interacting with the students and networking with my fellow colleagues.
With what other organizations do you volunteer?
I am a member of the judicial advisory committee for the Loren Miller Bar Association. I advocate for people who have committed crimes and have changed their lives for the better through the Seattle Clemency Project. I also volunteer to work with students of the Technology Access Foundation.
I’m a champion for increasing diversity in STEM and participated in several panels discussing the ways schools, communities and parents can improve the number of minority students interested in STEM. I’ve also spoken at legal conferences discussing the impact of technology and the practice of law.
Why did you choose to attend Wayne State?
I chose WSU for its reputable science and engineering programs. Wayne State is a school that prides itself on ensuring its graduates succeed and that was important to me as a student.
My mother is also an alumna and she discussed how she learned so much from the faculty at WSU. She would drive my sisters and me to campus whenever we were in the area and showed us the different buildings where she attended classes.
I remember when my mother went back to school and graduated with her master's from Wayne State University. I was impressed to see so many people of different hues graduating at Cobo Hall. More importantly, witnessing my mother receive her advanced degree inspired me as a little girl to achieve more.
List any student organizations or teams you were part of at Wayne State.
I was president of the National Society of Black Engineers, vice president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and a member of the Dean of Students Affairs Engineering Student Body Council.
How did your education at Wayne State prepare you for what you are doing today?
My education at WSU prepared me to be a problem solver and to think critically when addressing problems. I believe that studying engineering equipped me to be agile in different roles and projects that I accepted in my career. I can attest that the engineering classes and professors at WSU prepare students for real-world problems they will encounter in the profession. Although my career path changed to law, I still utilize the engineering principles I was taught at WSU.
Who influenced you the most during your time at Wayne State?
I enjoyed campus life at WSU with my friends. I would spend all day on campus working on group projects in the undergraduate library, meeting friends at the Student Center, and exploring the best places to study in the science, engineering and law libraries.
Besides spending time with friends, the people that influenced me the most were the faculty and staff at WSU. I would often see my faculty advisor, Gail Evans, to discuss classes for the next semester and the happenings in my 20-year-old life. Dean Gerald Thompkins was another influential person during my time at WSU. He would devote time with the students by hosting resume workshops for the on-campus engineering career fair or networking events with industry professionals.
What is the most important thing you learned at Wayne State?
I learned the importance of working hard to achieve success. Many of the students in the engineering department worked full-time jobs or had co-ops, and would attend classes in the evening. Their tenacity and diligence in completing their degrees exhibited to me the value of showing up and accepting the challenge of any class, project or obstacle.
Moreover, I learned the significance of working with students and people of diverse backgrounds. My time at WSU afforded me the opportunity to engage with students and faculty who had unique experiences and those encounters have served me well in my career. As you enter the engineering profession, you will interact with people who may have different points of view or a myriad of ways to solve a problem. In these encounters, it's necessary to listen, learn and understand.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Wayne State?
The advice I can share with students is to enjoy their time at Wayne State University. Get involved with the various organizations on campus and be willing to meet people from diverse backgrounds. College is one of the best times in your life. Learn as much you can from your peers and the faculty. Most importantly, don’t forget to study!