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Lisa Bahash

Johnson Controls

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Group Vice President and General Manager, Original Equipment Power Solutions, Johnson Controls

Age: 49

Education: B.S., mechanical engineering, University of Michigan; M.S., engineering management, Wayne State University

What attracted you to the auto industry? I was born and raised in Detroit. My father worked as a lab technician in body engineering and my grandfather worked in the engine assembly plant. I had the aptitude to be an engineer so I pursued it.

First automotive job: I was an intern at General Motors for two years in manufacturing and product development.

Big break: In 2009, when I become the president and CEO of Gabriel North America.

What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Learning to understand and value differences — in experience and backgrounds— of people. Once you can do this, you can better harness their power.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? MaryAnn Wright [Johnson Controls vice president and fellow Leading Women honoree]. I have known her for over 20 years and we have worked together at three companies. She has endless energy, passion and drive.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Draw women into technical school programs. It will happen naturally as more and more women enter senior positions. We need to get the word out more for technical and engineering careers. Also, more acknowledgements are needed.

Tell us about your family. I have two brothers who are seven and eight years older than me and I was daddy’s little girl. My dad was well-read and intelligent, not formally educated but was a jack of all trades. He owned racing horses. So I was often at the track and starting gambling when I was 4. He also owned bars and a jewelry business.

My mother worked at McLouth Steel. I have a goldendoodle dog named Stuart and a cat named Sugar.

Are you able to maintain friendships? Yes, the ones I choose to. My father said I would be lucky to have five to six good friends. And I do.

What’s your favorite weekend activity? Wake surfing.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? My paternal grandmother. She was born in the U.S. but was Lebanese. She was a good person and I miss her.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Nobu restaurants. I have been to 13 so far and I am on a mission to go to all of them.

If I had it to do all over again, I’d ... Ford asked me to move to Japan when I was 28 and I didn’t do it. I’d like to know how things would have been different if I went.

Name one talent you wish you had. I would like the ability to play the piano. I recently saw Diana Krall in concert and she can really bang it out and sing.

By PJ Eichten

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