Muñoz, 2018 SAE Foundation honoree, discusses importance of STEM education

Nissan’s Chief Performance Officer, José Muñoz, will be amongst those honored at the SAE Foundation 2018 Annual Celebration on May 18. He will receive the Industry Leadership Award for achieving a significant level of success in his STEM career and demonstrating how to be an innovative risk taker who continuously challenges the industry.

Muñoz was appointed Chairman of Nissan North America in January 2014 and Chief Performance Officer of Nissan Motor Corp. in November 2016. In these two roles, he is responsible for the overall performance of the company as well as overseeing Nissan’s operations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Muñoz holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering from Polytechnic University of Madrid and an MBA from Instituto de Empresa Business School in Madrid.

Ahead of the Annual Celebration, the SAE Foundation spoke with Muñoz to learn more about his passion for STEM education.   

Describe your role within Nissan.

As Nissan’s Chief Performance Officer, I am responsible for the company’s overall results. I oversee all regions and business units on the revenue side of the company and am accountable for the implementation of strategies to ensure efficiency and transparency in our global operations. Although keeping my finger on the pulse of each region is a challenge—and requires a great deal of work across multiple time zones—I appreciate the vantage point and the opportunity to collaborate with our teams and our partners.  

Why is STEM education important to you?

I know first-hand that a STEM education provides an excellent foundation for success. I want to ensure that more students have the same educational opportunities from which I benefitted—being an engineer by training myself.

Encouraging students to develop an interest in STEM subjects is critical to the future of the auto industry and to companies like Nissan. We need skilled engineers, accountants, scientists, analysts, and other employees who have a solid foundation in science, engineering, and math. Investing in STEM education is, in fact, an investment in our very own future.

Who/what inspired you to pursue a STEM career/path?

I was always attracted to the sciences—and to engineering, in particular—because I love solving problems. The more complex, the better! I’m also constantly looking for the most efficient way to accomplish any goal—large or small—and have found that a science background is a tremendous asset for this. Utilizing data allows me to accurately assess what’s working, what’s not, and identify improvement levers.

With a strong background in the sciences and a doctorate in engineering, I began my career as a nuclear aerospace engineer. After transitioning into the auto industry, I found that my science training and experience have been great assets in business management—especially in areas of data analytics, scenario planning, and risk management.

How have you helped shape Nissan’s STEM efforts? What are you most proud of?

Nissan contributes to many programs that engage students in STEM—from sponsoring robotics competitions to programs that encourage girls to consider finance careers. One groundbreaking project funded by Nissan was the development of four science and literature books for children in kindergarten through third grade. Those books were specially designed to grab the attention of young children and get them excited about math and science with hands-on activities. I’m proud that those books have been a great addition to the SAE Foundation’s A World In Motion curriculum.

Why has Nissan chosen the SAE Foundation as a partner?

The SAE Foundation has a national scope and a long history of setting standards for industry engineering. The Foundation is thoughtful and experienced in providing educational resources to students to engage them in STEM in interesting and often entertaining ways. The SAE Foundation is a terrific partner, complementing Nissan’s commitment to STEM education.

What are you most looking forward to at the SAE Foundation Annual Celebration?

Nissan is committed to giving back to the communities where we operate, and it’s always wonderful to see the impact of these efforts. I look forward to celebrating what Nissan and the SAE Foundation have accomplished together, as well as the work of my fellow awardees.


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