Beth Lowery, 49
Vice President, Environment and Energy, General Motors
Education: B.A., business administration, Eastern Michigan University; J.D., Wayne State University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "For undergraduate and for law school it would have been nice to have some real-world learnings - practical applications of what you learn in the classroom."
First automotive job: Attorney for General Motors in environmental policy in 1989
- 1997-2001 Vice president, general counsel, GM North America
- 1994-97 Manager, legal staff, environmental and energy issues, GM
- 1989-94 Attorney, environmental policy, GM
- 1983-89 Partner, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, Detroit
- 1981-83 Law clerk for Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice G. Mennen Williams
Most fun automotive job: "I'm having a lot of fun now. I'd say the most learning and broadest experience came when I was general counsel for GM North America. As a member of the North American strategy board, I was able to learn all about the North American business; it was so broad and different than anything I had done before."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Before I came to General Motors, I took a job at a law firm. I was thinking I was going to slow down and that I didn't want to have to be working all the time. I quite quickly learned that being bored and not being productive and not having a full plate was something that I was not interested in. There was no way I was going to slow."
Proudest achievement: "Being general counsel at GM North America, being able to manage a number of lawyers with diverse backgrounds and being able to provide counsel to the strategy board."
Current challenge: "Trying to close this gap between perception and reality with respect to General Motors' commitment to environmental achievements in advanced technology. And trying to get the story out and getting people to write about it and really understand the commitment General Motors has to improving the environment."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "The tremendous amount of talent and resources that is available at GM internally. When I first came and needed an answer to a question, there was a whole research staff. If you have an engineering question, the best engineers in the world are at your fingertips."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "A couple of things: It is important that you learn the whole business and have an understanding of the business itself. And, obviously, it is important to have your expertise, but you need to know how it fits in the whole, how it contributes to the bottom line and how it contributes to producing great products that the customers want to buy.
"I also think it is important to speak with language that people can understand, especially when you are trying to persuade people. And so, for example, in the environmental area, it is important that we talk about things from a concrete standpoint and what it means to the product, what it means to the facilities, what it means for our ultimate customers."
What you do to relax: "I spend time with family and friends. I do travel quite a bit, both for pleasure and for work. I try to play golf - although sometimes that's not very relaxing! I try to read some things that are not business related."