Grace Lieblein, 45
Vehicle Chief Engineer, Front-Wheel-Drive Truck Products, Product Development, General Motors
Education: Bachelor's, industrial engineering, Kettering University; Master's, management, materials/logistics, Michigan State University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Dealing with politics, especially when you are new in the business. They don't teach you how to handle that in college."
First automotive job: Assistant engineer at Oldsmobile in Lansing, Mich., in 1983
Career highlights (all with GM)
- 2003-04 Executive director, global manufacturing system implementation leader
- 2001-03 Executive director; exterior, material and fastening engineering; North American vehicle engineering
- 1999-2001 Engineering director, engineering design, North America car group
- 1996-99 Director, GM Desert Proving Ground, Mesa, Ariz.
- 1993-96 Director, validation and test team, Lansing (Mich.) Automotive Assembly
- 1990-93 Superintendent, manufacturing, Buick-Oldsmobile-Chevrolet group
Most fun automotive job: "That's easy. One of my jobs was manager of GM's desert proving grounds in Mesa, Ariz. It was great because I had the whole thing - proving grounds, engineering and development. It was a great experience."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "From a career perspective, it would be not getting core assignments early in engineering.
"I never worked on chassis or ride and handling, and in my current assignment those areas are key."
Proudest achievement: "When I came back from the desert, I worked in the car group, and we worked hard to integrate engineering and design teams. That was the leading edge of the consolidation of our various groups."
Current challenge: "I am a relative newcomer in my current assignment. I want to be able to understand all of the aspects of the assignment and the integration."
On being successful: "It's a balance of personal and work. People think success is one-dimensional. It's not.
"One of the things I emphasize is that people need to figure out what success means to them individually."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "How quickly the competitive bar continues to be raised. There is an amazing rate of improvement with some companies on quality especially, and that just continues every year."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Get core assignments in your field. Sometimes it is not natural for women to get into core engineering assignments. One thing I counsel women on is getting the foundational experience and using their network of women to help other women."
Job to which you aspire: "I don't have a dream job. I never have. I love engineering, and I want a job where I can contribute but maintain a balance personally and professionally."
What you do to relax: "I like to read and cook, and we have a cabin that we enjoy."