For me, not owning a car, the idea of an electric vehicle seems like something quite distant. When the time comes for me to purchase a car (which is not in my immediate plans as I live in an area where walking and using public transport are convenient), I am not sure what I will opt for. While I may stick with a traditional car that I am familiar with, I am also open to exploring electric car options.

Kelly Helfrich is a firm believer in the future of electric cars. At General Motors, she plays a key role in developing the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the use of electric vehicles, starting from her work on the Bolt and moving forward. We caught up with Kelly to discuss her transition from a small company to the corporate giant, General Motors, her proudest project, and the advice she has for aspiring professionals. Here’s what she shared.

Name: Kelly Helfrich, electric vehicle and charging infrastructure manager at General Motors
Age: 32
Current Location: Detroit, Michigan
Undergrad: Economics and Business, Central Michigan University
Graduate: Economic Development and Management, Indiana University

How did you land your first job?

One of my initial jobs was at the local golf course during high school. On the day I applied, it was raining, so I protected my application in a Ziploc bag to keep it dry. The owner later revealed that my application stood out in the stack, which led to my hiring!

Transitioning from a startup to GM

Shifting from a small startup with less than 50 employees to a massive global corporation like General Motors with nearly 200,000 staff members was quite a significant change. Being at GM has provided me with valuable insights into the operations of a large international company. I enjoy engaging with diverse individuals daily, including colleagues from various parts of the world such as China, Israel, and South Korea.

Courtesy of General Motors

A Day in Your Life

I start my day at 5 am with the primary goal of enjoying a cup of coffee before my one-year-old daughter wakes up. After dropping her off at daycare, I usually listen to informative podcasts during my commute to work. Once at the office, I plug in my Bolt EV. My days are typically filled with meetings on various projects, from optimizing electric vehicles for the electrical grid to enhancing the public charging experience for our EV customers. I also collaborate with partner companies on initiatives to improve the EV charging infrastructure.

One of the perks of working at GM is the exposure to different areas of the company. For example, I had the opportunity to tour the Orion Assembly manufacturing facility where Bolt EVs and autonomous vehicles are produced. I’ve even experienced riding in an autonomous vehicle and visiting the design lab where future vehicle models are developed.

Current Excitement in Your Work

Every day, I contribute to shaping GM’s electric future. I believe that electric vehicle awareness and adoption are reaching a critical turning point, and I am privileged to be part of the effort in establishing the framework for widespread EV adoption.

Courtesy of General Motors

Proudest Achievement in Your Career

My initial role at GM involved working on the urban mobility brand, Maven. While there, I contributed to launching and managing one of the largest all-electric rideshare fleets in the U.S. at that time.

Through the Maven Gig program, we provided Chevrolet Bolt EVs on a weekly rental basis to rideshare and delivery drivers, inclusive of maintenance, insurance, and charging facilities. The success we achieved with the Bolt EVs at Maven was a collaborative effort that required meticulous planning, effective problem-solving, and strategic partnerships with other companies and cities. That experience provided me with valuable insights into the EV sector that I leverage in my current role focusing on EV infrastructure.

Ultimately, we converted skeptical rideshare drivers into EV advocates nationwide, raising awareness of electric vehicles. Many of our Maven Gig members moved from discussing weather or sports with passengers to engaging in conversations about electrification. Witnessing that transformation was extremely fulfilling.

Advice for Aspiring Professionals

Irrespective of your field of interest, make an effort to continuously learn about the industry you are in, be it through news articles, podcasts, or documentaries. Hands-on experience is invaluable; whenever possible, get out and try things yourself. During meetings, stay engaged and refrain from distractions caused by phones or screens. Actively participate and be present in the conversations.

Co-founder of a Non-profit Organization

In 2007, my father and I established the Cornerstone Youth Development fund, focusing on youth education programs in Detroit and Eastern Africa. Our organization has supported children living in orphanages in Uganda, providing funds for school supplies and tuition. Over the years, we’ve witnessed two of these children graduate from college, with one now pursuing medical studies and operating a clinic in his village. We also contribute to various educational initiatives in Detroit and plan to continue our support.

Advice for Your 22-Year-Old Self

Considering my current interest in personal finance and investing compared to when I was 22, I wish I had invested in certain stocks during my younger years!

Courtesy of General Motors

Kelly Helfrich is The Everygirl…

Favorite book?My go-to business-related book is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, which emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, trust, collaboration, and valuing others in achieving success in business.

Bedtime routine?If the weather permits, my husband and I enjoy a late dinner outdoors after our child is asleep. I usually read a few chapters of my current book before bedtime.

Last TV show you loved?I find Schitt’s Creek to be an uplifting and heartwarming show that highlights the significance of family.

Go-to coffee (or tea!) order?I prefer iced coffee with milk and always request light ice so I can savor more of the coffee!


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