A New Latitude

Photo by Alan Decker

Consider your first cellphone—it may have had the heft of brick, a pull-out antenna or—gasp!—actual buttons. Most of us think of those devices as reminders of a world long past, but for Jocelyn Lo ’01, MS ’02, they marked the start of her life’s purpose.

“I was absolutely fascinated by cell-phones,” says Lo. “How they worked, how they looked. I really wanted to be a part of that.”

Lo’s dreams of engineering seemed a world away from where she grew up in Hong Kong, but when she and her sister came to the states to attend high school, that world opened up and set her on a course for UC San Diego’s Revelle College and the Jacobs School of Engineering. By the time she graduated, she had attended enough campus career fairs to land an internship at the leading cellphone company at the time: Nokia.

“I was extremely eager to get into that company,” Jocelyn explains. “They were the innovators of the time, and to have that door opened and get connected with that network, it was amazing.” At Nokia, she became known as “J-Lo the Intern” and received mentorship from her fellow Triton, Romeo Dumpit, ’95. He recalls, “Most interns start off a bit timid in a new environment, but Jocelyn seemed to jump in with both feet. She was never one to be afraid to get involved with new things, make adjustments and grow.”

With that professional experience in engineering consumer products and a UC San Diego master’s degree earned shortly thereafter, “J-Lo the Intern” soon built an engineering career with the leading cell-phone companies of the time, including Kyocera and Motorola. When Motorola laid off their entire San Diego office in 2012, Lo found support from the network she had since built and landed a position working with now-partner Tim Wiley at Quartus, an engineering consulting company that would prove to be the seedbed for Lo’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“I took every learning opportunity I could, especially the customer-facing elements, like being able to sit down with a client and explain how we will design this, how we accomplish that—those sorts of skills were invaluable in launching a business.”

Lo and Wiley saw potential for growth in the consumer products sector, a rather small part of Quartus that they decided to pursue on their own. “Consumer product companies tend to grow very quickly,” Lo says, “and they need products made just as rapidly. That’s where we come in.”

With Wiley heading up sales and building a customer base, Lo oversaw production and execution of projects and often served as an on-site project manager. Named Latitude 32 for the parallel nearest San Diego, the company came in as a dark horse. “It was a humble beginning,” says Lo, “but not as humble as we thought it would be. We expected to start working from our garage, but we had a decent client base right off the bat and needed engineers and workspace just to get going.”

It didn’t take long before Lo oversaw the production of many products you may use every day, items like fitness trackers, gaming headphones and watchbands, as well as countless accessories for another Triton-established company, GoPro.

And with such growth, the Latitude 32 team has since grown as well, by adding Tritons such as Stacy Sluys, ’11, the company’s operations manager, as well as Lo’s former mentor, Romeo Dumpit. “She hasn’t changed a bit,” he says. “Jocelyn was always eager to learn and energetic, all the while smiling while executing her projects. It’s what I expect of every Triton, and a pleasure to be around again.”

With a solid team behind her, Lo is looking to expand Latitude 32 and open an office in China, to which she and her team often find themselves traveling several times a year. And here at home, Lo is also active in inspiring young women to enter engineering, a passion that has brought her back to Revelle College for programs put on by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

“It’s very rewarding to get girls thinking about opportunities for them in this industry,” says Lo. “When I was just starting out, others in meetings would assume that I was just the secretary or the translator. But I relish every chance I get to surprise others and defy their expectations.”