Grit and perseverance: Patterson discusses her self-driven career path

Grit and Perseverance 

MechSE alumna Lori Gold Patterson (BSME 1990) discusses her self-driven career path

By Helen Chang

Every student takes a different path following their education at Illinois. Alumnus Lori Gold Patterson (BSME 1990), Chief Executive Officer for PixoVIN, paved her way from co-op to startup. From beginning her academic career studies in psychology at the University of Arizona to ending as a MechSE graduate, Patterson reminisced on her path to achieving her current career.

Lori Gold Patterson“My original educational path was frustrating because it was emotion-based, not logical,” Patterson explained. “I once followed students into math class to learn more about STEM, and I found math to be cerebral and straight to the point. After talking with my advisor, I decided to follow an engineering course of study.”

Having decided to pursue engineering, Patterson recalled the lack of mentors and community as she attempted to transfer to Illinois. “One advisor asked me, ‘Honey, have you tried home economics?’ It was so demeaning that I told myself that I would get an engineering degree no matter how hard it was and prove how wrong this man was!” Patterson enrolled at Parkland Community College, where she prepared for and then transferred to Illinois.

When Patterson arrived at Illinois, she found an opportunity to work in the industry she wanted by attending a co-op program. “I worked for John Deere every other semester,” she said. “I loved manufacturing, and I thought I would have a career in it.”

To be with the love of her life, Patterson moved to Chicago after graduation, where there were limited manufacturing opportunities. She was recruited to Accenture in Chicago where they turned her into a computer programmer. After stints as a senior programmer at Caterpillar and Special Project Manager for Solo Cup, she realized that she had an eye for business systems for reengineering human systems. “I relied a lot upon the problem-solving of engineering to recreate these systems,” she said. “There is always an answer even if it seems impossible.”

Patterson then left the corporate world to work closer to her family in Urbana. In 1998, she co-founded Pixo, an IT and technology consulting agency, serving as CEO until 2020, when she sold the company to her directors. In 2017, she launched PixoVIN, developing the leading vehicle barcode scanning technology called Capture. The tech captures VIN numbers from automobiles using standard mobile devices.

Group photo of Pixo staff outside their headquarters in Urbana, IL.
Gold Patterson (lower right, blue dress) with her Pixo team outside their headquarters in Urbana, Illinois.

In addition, she teaches for the Natural Science Foundation, an organization that teaches scientists how to discover their customer’s pain points so they can create need-based, commercial-ready solutions.

“I continued to focus on the theme of human-centered design in my career,” Patterson reflected.

She also works for the local non-profit STEAM Genius, which brings STEM and STEAM education to under-resourced students through popular culture with things like radio control cars, drones, deejaying and more.

Patterson’s advice for students is to identify their passion. “When I was studying at the University of Illinois, I had no advanced math or science background,” she said. “I was one of only a few women in each class, but our small cohort of women battled with determination to get to the places we are today because we refused to fail. Find what you are unwilling to fail at!”

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This story was published June 5, 2024.