Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I grew up in the Detroit area, and I went into the financial area. Automotive is such a strong, prevalent industry that there was the greatest opportunity for growth and general potential. It's a lot of fun.

For me the nice thing about the automotive industry is because it's so broad, particularly when you're in a large company like Ford, you have the opportunity to grow in so many different venues.

First automotive job: I've been with Ford since 1978. I hired into the finance arena as an engineering budget analyst.

Proudest professional achievement: My proudest professional achievement would be my time within the launch organization, where I am now. Over the past couple of years, we've made monumental strides in being cost efficient in delivering our prototypes and being able to deliver our products at launch in a very high-quality manner.

Current challenge at work: We're now working in a global environment and delivering product globally so working through all of the time zones and different processes — it's working to make sure we have a standardized system for delivering all the products in all of the regions.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? I'm not sure I would have necessarily characterized it to be that difficult. There has been a lot of work among a lot of people within the auto industry such as the Professional Women's Network and a group called Women in Manufacturing and another group for women in product development and finance — there have been a number of groups that have improved networking and communication for females in the industry. So challenges that existed years ago are not as prevalent as they used to be.

Dream job: My dream job would probably be a country head. I don't mean as a queen. [Laughs.]

From an opportunity perspective, I'd like to be able to manage the whole business relationship, and that would be really done if you had, for example, all of Canada or Mexico.

At some point, when I retire, I will probably take a crack at writing — it will be a novel.

On raising a family: Being a woman in the industry and raising a family means you have to really manage what is going to be acceptable in terms of your work-life balance.

To really be successful in anything you do, you wind up having to make trade-offs. You make sure you always maintain touch with the really important things, but you do have to lose out on some of the other things.

I never missed a parent-teacher conference, but do you get to see the kids take their first steps? No. Do you get to do the first Easter egg hunt? No. But on balance, I did get to participate in the really big things.

What you do to relax: We have a house on Lake Huron so we travel on weekends to the cottage and we boat. We have a condo in Florida, and we swim and go to the beach. Sometimes we travel.

I'm an avid reader and an avid book-on-tape listener; that's how I switch off work.

— Jamie LaReau

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