What attracted you to the auto industry? My first car was a 1986 Camaro Berlinetta. I really enjoyed the sports car aspect of automobiles. I had an interest in that piece of the business. My parents always strived to own a Cadillac. I hired in to Cadillac and I thought that was the coolest thing on earth. Going to work for the luxury standard of the world at that time is what intrigued me.
First automotive job: I hired into the indirect purchasing organization as an assistant buyer in 1983. I was supporting the sales and marketing organization. I was buying parties and dealer trips. It was a really, really fun job. I learned how we did business at that time at Cadillac.
Big break: I got pushed to do a lot of roles that maybe I didn’t think I was ready for. In the end I was. When I was promoted to executive director leading the interior purchasing group, I had just been an executive for a couple of years. I had been a late bloomer as far as leadership. I worked about 15 years in a buyer-type role and then I was promoted into the manager role. I was pushed to do more and more every time. Interior was my dream job. I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I told my boss at the time, Bo Andersson, that I didn’t know if I was ready to do this big job. He said: “You’re ready.” So, I said, “OK, we’re going to do this,” and it really did open up a lot of opportunities.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? The biggest challenge was getting to be a leader in the company. I tried for 15 years to prove myself and get to a manager-type position. The biggest challenge was getting noticed. I tell people today that is your biggest challenge. When you become a leader in the company, that’s the biggest impact you make. Getting to that level is so important.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My husband. I am a perfectionist, so I always think I am probably not ready for that next step because nothing is perfect yet. But he always pushes me; he is always in the background saying you can do this and reminding me what I have been able to accomplish.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? The key to recruiting is getting out to universities and sharing with women what the opportunities are. A lot of college students — especially as you leave the Midwest — are not aware how exciting the business can be. Mary Barra has spoken about many of the new technologies we’ll be coming out with. I really do think the women in college today would find that fascinating and exciting.
Tell us about your family. We’re getting ready to be empty nesters. I have three boys, two in college and one is a senior in high school. My youngest son wants to go into computer science. My oldest son is in the honors program in economics at Michigan State, and then my middle son is a sophomore at MSU. My husband owns a home health care business.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? Bicycling. We love it. We’ll go anywhere. We have a place up north, and we have a separate set of bikes there. We usually do trails and try to pick scenic places. We are heading out to Napa Valley for Thanksgiving and we’ll do some biking there. And we ski in the wintertime. We have two snowboarders and a skier.
Are you able to maintain friendships? Absolutely. Just as an example, I have three friends that I have had since I was 5. And we still do everything together.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Ronald Reagan. He was a great leader who stood for many things. If you put the politics aside, so many things happened during his reign. It would be a really great discussion.
What’s your guilty pleasure? It’s really simple for me. We love to travel, but we have a summer home in Harbor Springs (northern Michigan). It is the place I relax and it is heaven to me. I am still connected, but I don’t feel like I am.
By Richard Truett