What attracted you to the auto industry? It started with a co-op assignment at General Motors. I was motivated by the idea of what the automobile can do for people around the world, especially in developing economies, allowing them to get to their jobs or transport their children.
First automotive job: As a validation engineer [in 2001], working on durability vehicles. I was testing the Cadillac STS at the time. We were working on full-vehicle durability. Whatever broke, we would investigate with the engineers.
Big break: When I led the A World In Motion program. It’s a volunteer program led by the Society of Automotive Engineers, whereby engineers can go into the classroom for an hour a week over a six-week period and teach hands-on engineering projects. General Motors is a huge sponsor of that program. That led to huge networks for me.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I think the major one has been moving very quickly through the organization. Because you don’t bring a lot of depth with you. You’re always rebuilding that trust with the new team, proving that you have the knowledge to lead them.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? [GM Vice President of Global Quality] Grace Lieblein has had the greatest influence. She’s taught me to challenge myself, but to do it in a balanced way. She’ll often say, “Never have any regrets.” Even when I was thinking about having children, she was the one who said, “There will never be a right time to have kids. If you want to have children now, then do it.” I worked for her in my previous assignment, and she’d sometimes say, “Go spend time with your kids.”
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We need to show more flexibility. I’m not sure that the young women in our company see that. I have a lot of young women, let’s say five years into their career, who are getting ready to start a family and are nervous to take a promotion or move to the next level because they’re not sure how they’ll balance that. We need to showcase that flexibility more.
Tell us about your family. I have a wonderful husband, Loren. We’ve been married for 12 years. We have two girls: Ellena, 7, and Kendall, who’s 3. We have a lot of fun.
Are you able to maintain friendships? Yes. I think the challenge is finding like-minded women outside of work, like in my church community or other places. A lot of those women stay at home with their children, so sometimes it’s hard to find those connections.
What keeps you up at night? Nothing. I have zero issues sleeping. It’s mostly because I’m exhausted.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know. I can list all of the states in alphabetical order at a very high speed. But seriously, I grew up on a horse farm with draft horses, and I can drive draft horses.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Jesus
What’s your guilty pleasure? Watching “Dancing with the Stars”
Name one talent you wish you had. Remembering people’s names. I’m terrible.
By Mike Colias