Diane Allen, 45
Design Manager, Nissan Design America
Education: B.S., transportation design, Center for Creative Studies
What your college professors didn't teach you: "The politics of design."
First automotive job: Staff designer at Nissan Design America in 1984
Most fun automotive job: "Being the design manager for the new 350Z, which debuted as a 2003 model. That was the real turning point for Nissan. It re-created the company's image. Designers were in the driver's seat. Nissan had been conservative and was looking for a shift."
- 1984-96 Staff designer, Nissan Design America
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "When I was new in the business, I didn't use my gut instinct enough, didn't have a loud enough voice. I have learned to trust your gut; it will help."
Proudest achievement: "Juggling four truck products at one time: the full-sized Nissan Titan pickup, the extended-cab Titan, the full-sized Nissan Armada SUV and the full-sized Infiniti QX56. We were new to the full-sized truck segment so there was a lot of pressure."
Current challenge: "The redesign of the 350Z. How do you revisit an already successful product and push it to the next level? You don't want to walk away from what people love, but you still need to push it. That's a hard task."
On being successful: "My job is not about just creating a good-looking product but also creating an environment where people can flourish and grow. It's more of a nurturing approach."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "Most people thought it would be hard for a woman to work at a Japanese company, but Nissan was refreshingly open and inclusive. Even when I would go to Japan and give presentations, they would really listen to me."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Be passionate about your work, and opportunities will come."
Job to which you aspire: "My role as design manager is comprehensive enough. As jobs get bigger, there is more responsibility, more travel, etc. I have 4-year-old twins. They keep me busy. I'm content to grow this staff, to pass on my skills."
What you do to relax: "Garden with my kids. I'm also learning how to cook from my husband."