Boundless curiosity and a zest for problem-solving

For Lila Snyder, B.S.M.E. ’94, chief executive officer of Bose Corporation, learning how things work was ingrained from childhood. Her lifelong love of math and technology and passion for problem-solving have propelled her through a successful career as a consultant and executive in the technology and related sectors.
Boundless curiosity and a zest for problem-solving

Lila Snyder was destined from a young age for a technology-oriented career, even if she didn’t fully recognize it at the time. Growing up near Toledo, Ohio, close to the epicenter of the American automotive industry, she was raised in a household “where we fixed things—cars, appliances—and built things” and where aspiring to be an engineer was second nature.

“I’m not sure as a kid I knew what engineering was,” Snyder recalled. “I loved science, learning about how things worked, and everything about math. When I looked around my world, mechanical engineering seemed like such a natural thing to do.”

Snyder wanted to study the mathematical aspects of engineering and get hands-on experience—the kind of tinkering that aspiring young engineers have done since time immemorial. In 1990, she arrived at the University of Miami, initially attracted by the biomedical engineering program, one of few in the country at the time.

“I ended up not doing that, but [in choosing Miami], I wanted to experience a different part of the country,” Snyder said. “I loved the Midwest, so I figured if I was going to go far away, I might as well go somewhere great.  So, that’s how I ended up in Miami.”

“I was the classical mechanical engineer,” she added. “I loved it; we were a relatively small group [that] tracked through our coursework together. I ended up doing some cool research at the Rosenstiel School during my junior and senior years, which got me interested in graduate school and the kinds of research graduate students do.”

Snyder also plunged into campus life. She was a member of the cheerleading squad—on the sidelines at the Orange Bowl when the Hurricanes defeated Nebraska to win the 1991 national championship—and was tapped into Iron Arrow, the University’s highest honor society. “It was a magical time in my life,” she said of her experience at the U. “It was only four years, but it feels like such a bigger part of my history and my memories.”

She remains engaged with her alma mater: she is a member of the alumni board of directors and was the speaker at the spring 2023 Meet the CEO event, hosted in Boston by the University of Miami Alumni Association. (Scroll down for event video.)

At MIT, where Snyder earned master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering, she focused on biomedical research, studying how to regenerate the peripheral nervous system using materials and scaffolds that would be implanted in the human body.

Snyder draws a direct line connecting the problem-solving skills she learned at the U and the career she has built. After graduate school, she went to work for McKinsey & Company, working with clients in the technology, media, and communications sectors on strategy, operations, marketing, and sales. Later, she was executive vice president and president for commerce services at Pitney Bowes, Inc., where she oversaw the company’s technology-enabled e-commerce and logistics businesses.

Snyder joined Bose in 2020 and serves on the company’s board of directors and is CEO. As CEO, she oversees all aspects of Bose consumer electronics, automotive, professional systems, and related businesses.

“I love technology, and I think of my engineering experience starting at Miami as learning how to be a great problem-solver,” Snyder reflected. “It’s what I enjoy most – digging in to really hard problems to try to figure them out. And the great thing about having that educational background in engineering is that you get a really structured way of solving problems. There is a problem, there is an answer, and there is a bunch of variables, and it’s how you solve through all those variables,” she added.

As Bose’s first female CEO, Snyder is something of a pioneer. Although progress has been made in recent years, women are still underrepresented in the engineering and technology sectors. For Snyder, getting more girls and young women interested in STEM education and careers starts in the home and in K-12 classrooms.

“I would say, as someone who hires a lot of engineers, that we need more engineers, period. And we certainly need a lot more women,” Snyder said. “I was lucky. I had parents who encouraged my sister and me that we could do anything we wanted.

“I think the more we can help girls have confidence they can do it, [they will learn] that it’s great to love math and science. It comes from strong mentors, whether those are your parents, your friends, or your teachers. It’s a great thing to thrive in math and science, and they shouldn’t shy away from it,” she added.

Snyder views her own career in part as an outgrowth of her innate curiosity and self-awareness. “I am such an optimist,” she laughed. “I never thought of [being a woman in tech] as challenging. I think of it as a great opportunity to differentiate. I have different inherent strengths, and what has worked for me is to focus on what I’m good at, be aware of what I’m not good at, and lean into my strengths. We all bring different perspectives, and different perspectives make for better problem-solving.”

When asked what career advice she would give students and new graduates, Snyder said, “to take more risks.”

“I have had over my career, and continue to have, amazing mentors and sponsors,” she continued. “And they pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I was quite ready to do and were really daunting. Taking those risks is where you learn and grow and develop as a professional. And the worst thing that can happen is that you fail, which has certainly happened to me, [but] you learn so much that the growth you get is worth the pain.

“So, step out. Take on projects that you don’t think you’re ready for. Raise your hand for something that sounds hard. Have the courage to go further than you think you can.”