Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I entered the auto industry via consumer finance. I began my career in the credit card industry at Circuit City Stores, which would later go on to create and spin off CarMax. By 1996 I had joined the CarMax team, and I have a passion for the way we buy and sell cars. It's a very customer-focused business model, and the culture is very associate-focused.

First automotive job: At CarMax Inc., accounting group manager in 1996.

Proudest professional achievement: Successfully navigating the worst recession in the company's history. That's particularly important given the recessionary impact on credit and car sales. As a result, in our fiscal year 2010, we financed more than $1.9 billion in CarMax sales and generated record profits.

Current challenge at work: The state of the economy and its impact on consumers continues to be challenging. We've continued to focus on three core strategies — three D's.

One is developing associates. We're providing our associates with the tools and training they need for success not only in their current roles but in roles beyond. The second is driving execution. There, we want to improve the car-buying experience for our customers. The third is discovering efficiencies. What we've done here is continuously examine our processes for opportunities to reduce waste.

On the women's room: The first time I realized I was a woman in a man's industry was early in my career managing CarMax Auto Finance. We were about to do a securitization and had one of the rating agencies in for a review with our team and the woman [from the ratings agency] was pregnant.

We took a break and I walked her to the facilities, and I went in with her and she said, "Well, this is a first." I asked, "A first for what?" She said, "It's the first time I've ever been in the rest room with the president of a finance company."

I said, "Seriously?" And I kinda went, "Oh, wait, we're both women." ... Duh!

What you do to relax: I spend time with family. We live near a lake and spend many weekend hours boating, skiing, tubing and swimming. There's nothing like the sun and the lull of the water to remove the stress of a busy week.

— Arlena Sawyers

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