When I was quite young, my father was in the Commerce Department as assistant deputy secretary under Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. I met [General Motors'] Pete Estes and some of his staff, working around my dad. It was recommended that I look at Kettering [University] even though I was from the East Coast. I was fascinated by the opportunity to work in an industry while you were getting your education, so that you knew that what you were going to be doing for the rest of your life was something you were going to enjoy.
I've stayed since 17 because from an engineering standpoint, it's fascinating. Then from a business standpoint: What other industry holds the technology advances and interest while being so meaningful to the GDP of any country it's in?
First automotive job: Co-op at Cadillac in 1979 at the Clark Street plant in Detroit. Worked first in the paint shop and then on the line. Eventually, as a sophomore, in engineering departments.
Proudest professional achievement: Having the opportunity to be part of the team that's leading Dana back post-bankruptcy.
Current challenge at work: Making the right choices. We're in a very solid position financially, and we have a lot of different opportunities thanks to the faith and strength of our customers. As we're looking at where to go and where to grow next, the biggest challenge is picking the priorities. Which technology, which region, how much you do how fast? The technologies are transitioning, and the regions are all growing. You don't want to abandon one ever.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? I'd characterize it as not a difficult environment but a nontraditional environment. I think it goes back to the unfortunate fact that somewhere between the age of 10 and 16 we lose many young girls' interest in science and math. There are many organizations, like the Convergence Education Foundation, now called Square One Education Network, and the Detroit Science Center, all trying to help prevent that.
If you love what you do, gender doesn't matter. If you surround yourself with people who love what they do, you're just a group of businesspeople or engineers focusing on what you're doing.
We do have an issue of not having enough female candidates coming up through the talent pool. That comes back to something in the education process. We need to work with colleges, high schools and junior highs and robotics programs as an industry, so we don't lose young girls right at that critical age.
You're always going to find in any field that's male- or female-dominated — I'm sure this plays both ways, though I've never been in the cosmetics industry — you have to pick who you play with. The two things you always want to do as you pursue a career is find work that you love and people that you love to work with.
Dream job: Leading an organization with a clear technology focus on providing something that makes a difference in society.
If the practicalities of money weren't an issue, working on the opportunity to lead an organization working on a really game-changing technology: energy and fresh water for emerging markets or pushing the edges of solar biomimicry.
Obviously that involves a lot of risks and startups. I enjoy Dana thoroughly, but the idea of being part of a startup that creates something that's really transformative for society, that would be really exciting.
What you do to relax: Spend time with my family. We swim almost every evening at home in our pool provided it's not winter in Michigan. Go out on our boat, tubing and wakeboarding. I spend all the time I can with my husband and two girls.
We also go up north, to a farm that was my husband's grandfather's. We hike, canoe.
And every winter, we take 10 days off and go to the same place in the Virgin Islands, with no phones, no TVs.
— James B. Treece