Cynthia Conn Sidoti, 43
Director, Paint and Energy Management, Chrysler Group
Education: B.S., economics, Michigan State University; Master's, industrial relations, Wayne State University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "The ability to be flexible. In my career, I am asked to do a lot of things in a lot of different functions. The longest I have had one assignment is this one, which is two years. Typically, it is 12 to 18 months, and then I go on to a new assignment. Your college professors don't prepare you to be flexible to do multiple tasks in multiple jobs."
First automotive job: First-line supervisor in chassis at Ford Motor Co.'s Wixom, Mich., assembly plant in 1987
- 2001 Plant manager, pilot process verification center, Auburn Hills, Mich.; Conner Avenue, Detroit, assembly plant; and Sterling Heights, Mich., vehicle test center, Chrysler group
- 2000 Director, manufacturing quality, DaimlerChrysler Corp.
- 1999 Vice president, quality, Lear Corp.
- 1997 Director, global supplier quality, Lear
- 1995 Manager, quality control, Lincoln Mark VIII, Ford
- 1993 Manager, supplier quality, quality control, Ford
- 1992 Manufacturing planning specialist/superintendent, Lincoln car lines, Ford
Most fun automotive job: "The first-line supervision job was the hardest and most rewarding job I ever had. You realize automotive is really about people.
"A lot of the people I supervised on my very first day I still play golf with today and have relationships with. I had 38 men who worked for me on the night shift. I went into the job as a young woman asking, 'What can I do to support them and make their job easier?' These were seasoned gentlemen working the engine deck.
"I was hired in on February 14. My birthday was April 12. I walked in on my birthday, and they had all pitched in and bought me a gift and brought a dish for a potluck. Thirty-eight men in their 50s and 60s. The level of acceptance I received from those men was overwhelming."
Proudest achievement: "Two years ago, when I was asked to take on my current assignment, Frank Ewasyshyn (Chrysler group executive vice president of manufacturing) called me into his office and said, 'What do you know about paint?' I said, 'I can't even paint my fingernails very well, let alone a car.' He said, 'Well, as of tomorrow you will be running paint operations for North America.' The senior leadership was confident in me and my leadership abilities and confident I would be a quick learner and that my passion would drive me to be an expert in paint."
On being successful: "For me to be successful means work-life balance and feeling very fulfilled at both." What about the auto industry surprised you: "The opportunities and not just because I am a woman. What is surprising about my career is all the opportunities - such as this job running 13 paint plants in North America. I am the first one in my family to graduate from high school, let alone go to college. I am a blue-collar kid who became an executive. I don't feel there are any limitations. The opportunities are endless."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "The young women coming up in the auto industry today feel they have to make choices between family and a career in automotive. I try to counsel them that you can have both. Is it a lot of work? You bet. Does it take a lot of planning? Absolutely. But you can have both. I volunteer at my kids' school and for field trips. That message to young women needs to be out there. You don't have to choose one or the other. You can do both."
Job to which you aspire: "I'd like to be the CEO of the company."
What you do to relax: "I grew up riding motorcycles. Last fall, my husband and I bought four new Honda dirt bikes. We ride the state trails with our kids. And the entire family golfs together, often on Sundays at twilight. I also enjoy traveling with my children. I pride myself on teaching my children the need to be open-minded about different cultures and experiences."