100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Jeneanne HANLEY

Vice President, Business Development & Strategy, HEV/EV Business Unit • Lear Corp. • Age 37
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I was born and raised in southeastern Michigan. My father worked at and retired from General Motors, so I thought there was nothing cooler than to be in the automotive industry.

First automotive job: A seat engineer on the GM J-car [Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird] for Lear in 1994.

Proudest professional achievement: It goes back to my first job, because my proudest may not have been my biggest. I don't know if I was ever prouder than when I was working on those seat projects. In my first six months I went from seeing a design on a tube to being at the tool shop watching the parts get produced, to our seats being built in our plants, to going over to GM Lordstown.

You walk into that and you really get an appreciation of what it takes to put a car together and that you were a part of that, that what you did is a part of that product. I don't think I've ever been more proud than that.

Current challenge at work: My current challenge

without a doubt is our hybrid and electric vehicles. This area of innovation is moving so fast, we are executing first-, second- and third-generation systems at the same time; building a team globally; and working on even further out a technology road map.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? I think the automotive industry is a difficult industry for every executive. I think what's funny is some of the things that have historically been treated as women's issues, like work-life balance, really are everybody's issues. Everybody wants a quality of life. Everybody wants to work smarter.

I think that we're on a cusp with everything that we've gone through in the past 18 months — just have everybody work an extra hour or two, we've gotta do something different than that. We need a step function change in how we do business on a global scale, really rethink it for everyone, not just women.

How has the recession affected opportunities and the work environment for women in the industry? Clearly as we are downsizing, we aren't hiring at an entry level. And I think that's really where the opportunity for women is, encouraging them to be in a technical field. From an opportunity standpoint, I'd have to say personally a lot of my opportunities have come when the business is as tough as it gets because that's when you're rethinking your team and your structure and you're going to people that you know that you can count on.

Dream job: My dream job is to put my mark on a business unit where you're there from the beginning to the end, where you're defining the strategy and you're executing the strategy. So it's your vision, and it's on you. With the hybrid group, I'm pretty close to what that dream job is.

What you do to relax: I work in the automotive industry, and I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, so I don't have to worry too much about what I like to do. But when I do, it's watching my kids swim in the lake at grandma and grandpa's. If I'm really lucky, I'll have a stack of magazines, from my Harvard Business Review and Economist to People. That's about the attention I can give. Maybe one day I'll work up to a whole book again.

— Dave Guilford

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