In an industry known for its workaholics, Wendy Curcuri stands out.
At Kettering University, she earned two degrees in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering — at the same time.
Then she earned her MBA while holding down a full-time job at General Motors, an achievement that required a seven-day workweek.
And when Audi AG sought a vendor to integrate the supply electronics for its driverless self-driving cars, Curcuri flew to Ingolstadt, Germany, every other week for 14 months to win the contract for her employer, Delphi Automotive.
“My work is what I enjoy,” said Curcuri, Delphi’s global sales director for electronics and safety. “I’m not a gardener, and I don’t go shopping with my friends. I have time for my work and my kids.”
Curcuri grew up in a small farming community in northern Michigan. In high school, she was good at math and science, and decided that engineering would be her ticket to a career.
After she graduated from Kettering in 1998, Curcuri got a job with GM, which asked her to trouble-shoot its minivans’ sliding doors at its assembly plant in Doraville, Ga.
The company liked her work and promoted her to its technical center in Warren, Mich. But Curcuri wanted to learn the business side, so she got an MBA and transferred to the purchasing staff.
By then, GM was sliding into a cash-flow crisis that eventually led to bankruptcy. So Curcuri got a sales job in 2006 with Denso Corp., and after a couple of promotions, she was put in charge of the Ford account.
Curcuri had good rapport with her bosses, but she began to wonder whether the executive suites of a traditional Japanese company such as Denso would make room for an American woman.
Meanwhile, Delphi was reinventing itself after emerging from bankruptcy. Curcuri, who had moved from Denso to Eaton Corp., wasn’t looking for a job.
But in 2013, a headhunter convinced her to join Delphi. Delphi was growing, but it was missing some opportunities. Curcuri recalls: “They were saying: ‘Come in, you’ll have a clean slate. Reorganize your team. Help us figure out how to do better.’”
After 18 years in the auto business, Curcuri is excited about her prospects at Delphi. But after her share of 80-hour workweeks, she has some advice for young executives.
“People have to think about their values,” Curcuri said. “[Work] is what makes me tick — that’s who I am. Now I understand it, and I manage it so that I have time with my kids. People have to know themselves.”
— David Sedgwick