Interview with Danielle Blelloch – Senior Hardware Reliability Engineer, Cruise

Last semester I interviewed Danielle Blelloach a 2020 BSEE and Music Engineering alumna.  I chose to interview her because the job of Reliability Engineer is not one many engineers consider as they start their careersa particularly important one that many engineers do not think about as they are starting their careers.  Maybe this blog will change that?


Danielle Blelloach graduated from Tufts in 2020.  She majored in Electrical Engineering and Music Engineering, originally planning on being an Audio Engineer.  She had internships interned at Bose, ACMi and Mothership Studios, doing engineering in that area.   When she graduated, she moved to California and took a job as an Associate Reliability Engineer at Cruise and has earned 2 promotions since, now a Senior Reliability Engineer.  

Cruise is an autonomous vehiclecar company, majority owned by GM. Daniellea works on the FleetVehicle Reliability Team where she focuses on reliability for the camera and telematics systems Cameras, Camera Gateway module, Telematics Gateway Module and support for Ethernet switches, Chassis Motion Module.  She talked about the fact that Cruise  is operating with a start-up mentality despite being a large company of 3,000 or so employees that conducts itself with a start-up mentality  Danielle enjoys her job. 

The following is a synopsis of my chat with Danielle

How did Tufts Prepare You for This Job?

The Electrical Engineering Program at Tufts has an getting ready for industry focus.  In our Junior and Senior Design coursesone course, wWe worked with a customer on a cross functional team to source and design a product that meets requirementswith suppliers, and embedded systems engineers and technicians, .  Mmuch like the work I do now.

Another important thing learned at Tufts was the emphasis on collaboration.  We did a lot of group projects where the emphasis was on working together not on competition, similar to team structures in industry..  This is the way it is in the real world.

At Cruise, we use some of the same systems and programs at Cruise as I did at Tufts as I use now.  Of course, some of the technical content we learned is useful as well.  But the one thing I have figured out is that you don’t need to learn every specific tool and piece of technology, you just need to prove you can learn the technical knowledge.  

What is the job of a Reliability Engineer?

At Cruise, it is increasing improving the reliability of a self-driving vehicle care and decreasing the negative metrics. by increasing metrics; forAn example, is increasing the miles per safety critical event.  

I wear many hats, which can make things.  It is complicated.  Sometimes working on improving one metric can hurt another metric.  So I need to prioritize based on impact.    Of course, the role of the Reliability Engineering position differs by company.  An example is to use prognostics to predict failures and preemptively down a vehicle preventively find out about a problem and down a vehicle rather than have it malfunction in the real world.  

What is a typical day like?

We are often compared to fire fighters.  Every morning we come in and work on known failures, as well asand find out if there are any new failures.  We determine what is the highest severity failure is and go to work.  The work can be anything from needing to swapping out a part or even something simple like adding a zip tie.  

The first step is often to find out where the problem is, isolate it within the system, and figure out the best path forward given the constraints thing to do at that moment.  

Can you give an example?

I recently worked on had a big problem where… the vehicle’s our computer didn’t receive frames from the camera – I needed to figure out why, was it a hardware problem, software problem or a firmware problem?  

Compared to a design role, I am involved in high impact investigations.  In one day I can have competing issues.  So each day has a lot of variability and it is hard to plan.  One thing I say is that it is a reactive job that I need to make proactive, made easier when you can use tools such as prognostics to make it more proactive.  It is exciting but it can be stressful.  After three years, it is less stressful as I now understand what is and is not actually a big deal!

I must say that I am very rarely bored!

What Qualities Make a Good Reliability Engineer?

Takes Initiative – You need to be able to problem solve not just do a task

Collaborative– You need to work with your team, customers and suppliers.  You need to truly understand that you need each other’s knowledge and to be able to push back when you need something.

Enthusiastic – You need to be excited about what you are working on 

Scrappy – You need to both be able to put on band-aids and put out fires, but then do the deep work to solve the issues that arise. A..and you need to be able to work with all sorts of people.  

Why Don’t Students Know Reliability is a Good Career?

I think maybe it is that people don’t believe they can start in reliability and pivot.  But I have gotten to work directly on the car, worked at night and in the day, and have seen the whole vehicle, and how the components work together.  This is really valuable. 

In addition, as a Reliability Engineers one can make impact much faster.  You will need to fix something in 2 weeks rather than be working on a product that doesn’t release for 6 months to years later.  

For more information about Reliability Engineering:

What do Reliability Engineers Do?

The Secrets of How to be a Good Reliability Engineer

By Robin Kahan
Robin Kahan Associate Director, Engineering Career Services