Jan Thompson, 55
Vice President, Marketing, Nissan North America
Education: B.B.A., marketing, Western Michigan University; M.B.A., University of Detroit
First automotive job: Management trainee in sales and marketing at Chrysler Corp. in 1973
Proudest achievement: "I successfully transitioned from the client side to the agency management side. I don't think you see that very often where someone can be successful on both sides. But it gives you a greater understanding on how agencies work. It really was an eye-opener."
- 1999-2004 President and CEO, Designory Inc., Long Beach, Calif.
- 1995-98 Vice president, Interactive Golf division, Callaway Golf Co., Carlsbad, Calif.
- 1994-95 Vice president and general manager, Wilson Golf Division, Wilson Sporting Goods, Chicago
- 1988-94 Vice president, sales operations; vice president, marketing, Mazda Motor of America Inc.
Current challenge: "Taking both the Nissan and Infiniti brands to a higher level. We have so many new products; it's just continuing to evolve the brand, evolving Infiniti into a Tier 1 luxury brand and Nissan into a manufacturer that competes in every segment."
On being successful: "I really attribute it to sitting in all the chairs.
"As I went up through the ranks, it wasn't because I was a woman. I had all the credentials and I could stand toe to toe with anyone and say this is why I should have this job."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "I left the industry for the golf industry and saw how lucky we were in automotive to have the budgets we do to try new things."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Women need to sit in all the chairs. You can't take shortcuts. This whole industry is about wholesale; it's about selling cars and trucks, and if you don't do all the jobs, you shortchange yourself. We have some women here who are unpromotable to the management side because they weren't in the field. Sales is the most powerful spot in the company, but since most women don't have the field experience, they can't move in there. Also, play golf."
Job to which you aspire: "I aspire to any of the top marketing jobs at an automaker."
What you do to relax: "Play golf."