Cindy Niekamp, 46
Vice President; President and General Manager, BorgWarner TorqTransfer Systems, BorgWarner
Education: B.S., industrial engineering, Purdue University; M.B.A., Harvard University
First automotive job: Production supervisor of torque converter clutches at General Motors' Delco Moraine Division in Fredericksburg, Va., in 1983
Most fun automotive job: "Working for Delco Moraine in France as a plant superintendent. That was phenomenal, learning the language, learning the culture. We shipped parts to Spain, to Germany, to Korea, to England, to Belgium and back to the U.S. It was, from a personal development standpoint, an incredible experience."
- 1995-2004 MeadWestvaco Corp./Mead Corp., various positions, including senior vice president and CFO, MeadWestvaco Corp./Mead Corp.
- 1990-95 TRW Inc., various positions, including managing director, TRW Transportation Systems
- 1978-90 General Motors, various positions, including plant manager, antilock braking systems, Delco Moraine Division
Proudest achievement: "Personally, it's the birth of my two daughters. Professionally, right now I am just extremely proud to be part of the BorgWarner team. I am proud to be part of a winning, successful team under difficult circumstances."
Current challenge: "We have a large plant that is in the middle of a major transformation. It's a UAW plant, and we are working on making it more competitive. It needs to go from being successful more than 10 years ago to putting in place what the plant needs to be successful in the future. Another challenge is growth, new-product development and finding new markets around the world for growth outside North America. That's an incredible challenge when you are trying to build up your relationships with the Japanese and the Koreans and get market share in Europe."
On being successful: "Focus on results. Be very lean and focused. Work on being really good at whatever you do. This is a tough industry that is not for the lighthearted. It takes a lot of courage and guts."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "We are still somewhat insular. It's a small industry, and everybody knows everybody. That's a strength. But it also can be a weakness in that there are other things that happen outside that we may miss because we are so focused on our industry."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "I don't know that my advice for women would be any different than for men. It is: Do what you love to do. People tend to be good at what they like doing. Make sure you do what you are really passionate about. Put yourself in new and challenging situations so you grow and test yourself and build those muscles to be successful. I've always found a can-do attitude takes you a long way."
Job to which you aspire: "I love my job now. Who knows what the future will bring for me. As long as I have challenges, I like what I am doing right now."
What you do to relax: "Not enough! I like to exercise. I'll walk, run and swim. I love to travel and be with my girls and family."