100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Jay IYENGAR

Director and Chief Engineer, Head of Electrified Propulsion Systems • Chrysler Group • Age 47
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? When I was a student, the energy field was very interesting to me. I'm kind of a semi-environmentalist and energy-efficiency person. I always thought I was going to do research into the energy area. I got into this automotive emissions area in college, in my Ph.D. program. I wound up getting a second master's rather than a Ph.D. because I was in school all my life, and I wanted to get some practical experience. So cold-start ability of diesel engines and diesel emissions was my thesis topic for my second master's.

First automotive job: Joined GM as a college graduate in training in 1988 in the AC Spark Plug division advanced sensors development group.

Proudest professional achievement: When I joined the hybrid team as a part of the GM-Daimler-BMW cooperation activity, I was a group of one.

Within six months we were a group of 150. We learned as a team the brand-new area, and we launched a vehicle in production.

Current challenge at work: Right now it is really how do you commercialize this technology and make it cost-effective, how do you achieve the mass-market penetration that the market is demanding and yet make a sustainable business case?

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? When you go to a manufacturing plant, you'd probably say it's more conducive to men working; but when you're looking at engineering, the top type of work, yes, it's male-dominated, but it's not a difficult environment for a female. If you're willing to be challenged and stand the test of it, I don't think it's difficult at all.

Dream job: I like to keep doing something more challenging. I get bored with the same thing. I want to get into more of the business side of things, and I'd like to be able to have P&L responsibility, as well. When I'm trying to commercialize this product, as I see all the challenges associated with engineering, marketing, all aspects of it, I'd like to be held responsible for all of that. If you said, "Jay, here's your bank account. You're responsible to make this profitable; you own all of these things. Go out and figure a way to market this," that would be a whole broad area of challenge.

On being the leader: When we became a part of another company, I went to Germany for a meeting. We were trying to compare some technology between the two companies. I was the head of my group; I took a couple of engineers and went to the meeting. Their first reaction was they thought I was the secretary because you can't possibly have a female who is the leader. It was hilarious. Actually, I felt sorry for him to be able to make this statement. I had to earn his respect — par for the course in educating people.

What you do to relax: I travel, and any free time I have, I have to keep my brain active, so I can't just go and sit on a beach. I'm involved in the United Way. I do the Accounting Aid Society [a nonprofit that provides free income tax preparation services]. I recruit people from Chrysler to be a part of it. I know it's work, but it's just absolutely relaxing for me. It gets me away from what I do. You get to see real people and their problems — mine are nothing compared to all of that.

— Dave Guilford

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