Paths to the tops of automotive companies have changed over the years.
A mechanical engineering degree from say, Purdue, or a Harvard MBA, were once the ticket — and, yes, they're still extraordinary launch pads.
But these days, the means of scaling the heights of an auto giant have become more varied. Growing complexity and the industry's focus on a wildly different future have created new opportunities.
In an era when traditional car companies and suppliers are competing with tech startups (or acquiring them) there are new methods of finding and furthering their careers of the best and brightest. For example, Vishnu Sundaram, 35, vice president of telematics at Harman International, founded a telematics company in India that was acquired by Harman.
The industry's new means of marketing and brand-building can also be a career booster. Jim Brady, 41, director of General Motors' global customer experience strategy and enterprise experiences, was fascinated with the retail side of the business and working with dealers before immersing himself in the world of connectivity.
A crisis can create opportunity. Stephanie Davis, 34, was a director in the forensics investigations practice at accounting giant KPMG when she was hired last year as Volkswagen of America's first chief compliance officer — a job intended to help the company avoid further legal trouble.
Of course, there are still tried-and-true paths to the top — vehicle project leaders, purchasing, design and engineering, sales, marketing and retail network management. Lisa Drake, Ford's head of global powertrain purchasing, came up through the company's product development ranks.
But no matter what route they take, the Rising Stars profess a love for all things automotive.
Take Cadillac marketing director Renee Rauchut, whose father was an auto mechanic. Even when she was flogging the likes of Burger King and Sweet'N Low for an ad agency earlier in her career she spent a lot of time fixing up and driving motorcycles.
It's unanimous — young people working their way up through the automotive ranks take special pride and delight in representing a car company or auto technology supplier.
This is still where the action is.