Deborah deBoer Henderson, 54
Vice President, Quality, Engineering and Technology, Light Vehicle Systems, ArvinMeritor Inc.
Education: B.A., biology, Rutgers University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Life is unpredictable."
First automotive job: Assembly line worker at General Motors' Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant in 1985
Most fun automotive job: "Establishing an ArvinMeritor supplier development team for the light-vehicle systems business group in India.
- 2003-05 Vice president, quality, light vehicle systems, ArvinMeritor Inc., Troy/Detroit
- 2002-03 Site manager, Detroit operations, light vehicle systems, ArvinMeritor
- 1999-2002 Plant manager, Knoxville (Tenn.) operations, AlliedSignal Automotive/Breed Technologies
- 1997-99 Business unit manager, AlliedSignal Automotive, Knoxville
- 1995-97 Quality systems manager, Textron Automotive, Columbia, Mo.
"The energy, passion and enthusiasm of the team, combined with the incongruities of daily travel, market haggling, and the exotic food, sights and sounds, have made for a fascinating and exciting team process."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "It is wrong to impose perfectionism on those around you.
"The human spirit is fragile, and the impatience and frustration of perfectionism is to be replaced with good discussion and development planning, coaching and mentoring."
Proudest achievement: "My greatest accomplishments are linked to the teams I've served and led. The deepest sense of satisfaction and quiet pride comes when one of my teams is recognized and rewarded for transforming from an underperforming, high-risk group into a respected, results-producing team that can say with confidence, 'Look at what we've accomplished.'
"I am proud and humbled at the same time to be the parent of one of the finest young men on the planet."
Current challenge: "The ability of our quality, engineering and technology teams to rapidly adapt robust business processes to support global technology development, to protect intellectual property, to predict and prevent failures in leading competitive countries, and to protect our customers is key."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "Early in my career, the management styles were definitely traditional, and the callousness and harsh treatment that could occur in meetings surprised me. I used to wish that someone would come after me, so that I could stand up and fight for myself on objective grounds to model what should be done."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Be objective, and focus on your 'critical few' to deliver the necessary results. When the results are delivered, never underestimate the power of acknowledging, recognizing and rewarding those who contributed to the achievement."
What you do to relax: "I experience the most relaxation and renewal when my son and I travel on some new adventure to more remote parts of the world. A safari in Africa's Kenya, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea, hiking in the Northern Territory of Australia's Outback, or volunteering in a children's orphanage in Nicaragua have been opportunities to break from the demands of business and to appreciate and understand more about the world."