Toyota Motor North America
First automotive job: At Toyota as vice president, corporate controller in 2000
Big break: I was really fortunate after I joined Toyota. I was here for three years, the CFO retired and they tapped me. It was a really large opportunity that I didnít expect.
What is the major challenge youíve faced in your career? The first eight years after I joined Toyota, the company was just on this trajectory and could
do no wrong. (Then Toyota was hit with the unintended acceleration crisis in 2009 and several years of bad press as the company weathered the subsequent recalls of millions of vehicles, massive criminal fines, and Congressional hearings.) We obviously had the strength of our quality and our brand, but our reputation got shook. So we really had to draw on our internal strength and reset how we best approach supporting our customers. That was a good learning for all of us. We grew out of that. I think that really was the silver lining, to look at how we do business differently. But that was definitely a challenging time.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? I donít think it was just one person. Iím not a believer in just one mentor. I do believe in having a personal board of directors and having confidants from different aspects of my life that help. So professionally it could be people within Toyota, like [former Toyota and Lexus exec] Dave Illingworth was instrumental in helping me understand the automotive business, because I came from consumer products and services. To someone like Barbra Cooper who was our past CIO, a strong leader, strong developer of leadership. To people outside the company, be it someone from Pricewaterhouse, a partner, or individuals I volunteer with on boards of directors. And then also from being a working mom, other mothers that have kids similar age or older.
And Iím fortunate to have strong family. I have a great husband and a mom and dad who are close by. Even some real close girlfriends are wonderful to have right now as a sounding board.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We should be reaching out to girls in their early stages of school ó so girls in middle school and on up ó to help them see themselves in this environment, and be able to make a great contribution.
Tell us about your family. Iím happily married. We have two children, one is in college and one is a junior in high school. We enjoy spending time with our extended family. We do quite a bit of volunteering in the community together. Weíre also heavily a basketball family.
Whatís your favorite weekend activity? Barbecuing and baking for family and friends, and having everybody over.
What keeps you up at night? Right now as we are going through this transition to Plano and integrating the teams across the supply chain, what keeps me up at night is how we integrate all of our team members. How do we help everybody have the best information available so they can make the right decision? As we draw everybody together, itís how do you make it make sense for everybody and their family?
What advice would you give your child? Keep family first above all. And always do your best.
By David Undercoffler