Deborah Wahl was one of six high-flying female executives who in 2005 took part in an Automotive News roundtable discussion on women in the auto industry, and one of the topics was: Would there ever be a woman CEO of an automaker?
By the time that issue was resolved last month with the elevation of Mary Barra at General Motors, five of the panelists either had left the auto business or retired, and none worked for a major automaker.
But there has been life after the auto industry for those panelists. Last week Wahl, 51, landed a high-profile job as McDonald's U.S. marketing chief. She will handle marketing strategies for more than 15,000 U.S. restaurants, moving from Michigan-based homebuilder Pulte Group, where she was chief marketing officer.
At the time of the panel discussion, Wahl was the top marketer at Lexus, and she later was chief marketing officer at Chrysler before joining Pulte in 2009. She also had worked at Mazda and Ford.
One of Wahl's comments during the 2005 panel discussion might have foretold the future -- her own and that of, say, Mary Barra.
"Imagine the possibilities," she said. "Because if you can't imagine something you can never achieve it."