Anne Asensio, 43
Executive Director, Advanced Design, General Motors
Education: Degree of technical sciences in industrial design, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Appliques, Paris; B.S., arts, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Appliques, Paris
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Most design schools focus on the artistic. You also learn a lot by being with other students and designers. And you learn a lot about the community, about everyone's style, and we have a lot influence on each other. The thing that we didn't learn was how to become a manager in the auto business. I basically learned to be a manager along the way."
First automotive job: In the advanced design studio in the truck department at Renault in 1987
- 2002-03 Executive director, interior design, quality and brand character, GM
- 2000-02 Executive director, design, brand character, GM
- 1998-2000 Director of design, mid-sized cars, Renault SA
- 1997-98 Chief designer, small and mid-sized cars, Renault
- 1990-97 Designer, Renault
- 1989-90 Designer, Renault-Chrysler joint venture
- 1987-89 Car designer, utility and heavy-duty vehicles, Renault
Most fun automotive job: "One of my favorite assignments has been working on advanced design. One of the things I like is thinking forward, thinking really outside the box. I am very happy that in most of my career I was able to work on many products that were very innovative and unconventional. And that's what I like, and that is what is most fun."
Proudest achievement: "Many designers would immediately think of a product they have done. For me, it's not the way I see the work I am doing. I don't do that many cars anymore. I manage the creativity of the team that is doing the cars. I don't think of those cars as mine. I am just trying to encourage a system and nurture people to be very creative and do wonderful designs. And this is my best achievement.
"I started as a product designer. I was the only woman for a long time in many of the places I worked. So often I was alone in a big group and the only woman in the room. I feel very lucky and blessed at being in such an influential position in the automotive design business. In some way, I am very proud of this. There are not many women in this part of the business."
Current challenge: "As you know, GM is having a very important challenge in maintaining market share and providing great product to the marketplace. This is my every-day, every-morning, every-hour, every-minute challenge. It's not because we don't have ideas. We have plenty. The situation is, the scope is such a big one that even if you do three or four good things, it is not enough. It is very big job in a way. If you are a designer and you do a good thing, sometimes that's enough for your entire career. With the challenges that GM is facing, you need more than just one good thing."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "What surprises me is why we don't see more innovation and changes."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "They should believe in themselves first. You are not going to be seen as a woman. You are going to be seen as just another person who is making a very important, significant contribution."
Job to which you aspire: "I am doing it!"
What you do to relax: "I try to do activities that slow my pace. I read a lot, all kinds of things, novels and magazines. If I don't read, I feel bad. I swim. I do some horseback riding. I like to be just alone outside and thinking, even if it is cold. One thing that I like to do a lot is have very long conversations, intellectual conversations, with good friends of mine, about everything that is surrounding our society."