Deb Morrissett, 55
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Chrysler Group
Education: B.S., electrical engineering, Lawrence Technological University; M.S., electrical engineering, University of Michigan-Dearborn
What your college professors didn't teach you: "The one thing that I believe we weren't taught was how to communicate both verbally and in writing in a technical manner. ... I still don't like standing in front of groups of people. I was never trained in it. And it wasn't until I was well into my career that I found I had to stand and communicate."
Career highlights (all with Chrysler)
- 1999-2004 Director, electrical/electronics, purchasing and supplier quality
- 1996-99 Senior manager, electrical/electronics supplier quality
- 1984-96 Manager, emissions compliance, vehicle safety and emissions office
- 1978-84 Engineer, emissions certification, surveillance and compliance
- 1976-78 Participant, Chrysler Institute of Engineering training and job rotation program
- 1975-76 Speaker engineer
First automotive job: Speaker engineer in body engineering at Chrysler Corp. in 1975
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "I'm 55 years old, and I never went back for my M.B.A. The biggest mistake I ever made was stopping. Once you have the momentum going, you (should) just keep going."
Proudest achievements: "They are the little things that happen every day," such as being thanked by parents for safety programs and seeing the success of people whom she has mentored.
Current challenge: "I work in regulatory affairs. It's safety, and it's emissions, and it's fuel economy, and it's things like plant deactivation and Superfund sites. A lot of times, what bothers me is what I don't know. What's going to hit us this morning? What's going to happen that's unforeseen? I think it's really the unknown."
On being successful: "I'm not successful because I'm a vice president. I and everyone else are successful for the things we do in our life and how we treat others. My dad never got a college education, and I think the most he ever made in his life was maybe $16,000 the last year he worked. He was a good person. He worked hard. He helped others. And I think he was very successful."
What about the auto industry surprised you: Citing advanced technologies, such as hybrids, and others that are just beyond the horizon, such as hydrogen vehicles, she said: "I never really saw it coming. Now I'm so eager to see how it all works its way out."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Every time somebody starts on the woman thing, it's a concern for me. What every woman needs to know is to think like a professional. ... One of the things that really bothers me is no one ever lets us forget that we're (women) in the automobile industry."
Job to which you aspire: "I just try to do the best I can in the job I'm in, and we'll see what happens next."
What you do to relax: "My husband and I bought a piece of property in northern Michigan. We have about six acres of pine forest. It's about 15, 20 minutes away from the nearest city, and it's on a little river. I go up there and I put on my farmer overalls and my sneakers and hike around my property and do as little as possible."