Kathleen Ligocki, 48
President and CEO, Tower Automotive
Education: B.A., liberal studies, Indiana University; M.B.A., Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
What your college professors didn't teach you: "They taught me a lot of the right things - I only understood them later in life. What I didn't appreciate when I was younger is how challenging it can be to juggle all the things in your life as you grow older - families and yourself. How do you do all that, and how do you make it work and to balance the things in your life?"
First automotive job: Production supervisor at Delco Electronics in Kokomo, Ind., in 1979
Career highlights (all with Ford)
- 2002-03 Vice president, Ford Customer Service Division
- 2002 Vice president, marketing and operations
- 2002 Vice president, global strategy, business development, Canada and Mexico
- 2001 Vice president, North American strategy, Canada and Mexico
- 2000-01 President and CEO, Ford of Mexico
Most fun automotive job: "The one I'm in right now. It's the hardest as well."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "The biggest mistake I have made in my life is not finding the time to spend really quality time with my family, friends and the people I love. When I look back, what I deeply regret is the times in my life when I am not sure that balance was right."
Proudest achievement: "It is guiding Tower through this tumultuous rescue while maintaining customer, colleague and investor confidence, and doing that with a team of people whom I deeply admire for their commitment."
Current challenge: "We're in the process of turning around a U.S. supplier that has been in Chapter 11 since February. It is exhilarating to be part of the turnaround."
On being successful: "My proudest achievement is being a CEO of a publicly traded company. It's not an easy road, but it's one that lets you chart your own destiny and the destiny of a company."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "Easy. That I would, despite my best efforts, fall head over heels in love with this crazy business. After all, in high school, I had only learned about cars to expand my dating discussions beyond sports and sex. I scoffed at those that 'had gasoline in their veins.' I had assured my father, a career GM-er that I would never work in the car business. When I started in 1979 as a factory foreman, I was only joining for the money for two years, max. Now, 26 years later, albeit one detour to the 'far-more-glamorous' air conditioning business when I was with Carrier, I have been drawn back to the automotive vortex. How many businesses define people's personalities? Even their lives? How many businesses have provided the freedom of mobility to millions, spread economic development around the world, even inspired songs and defined generations? Yes, I love this business - a totally unintended love affair, a complete and total surprise."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Women bring out their passion for building a better world and a unique balance of results. We bring valor, passion and spiritual strength to the largest consumer industry in the world. I am not sure we always see ourselves through these powerful eyes. We need to follow our own dreams. We need that same confidence in our professional lives."
Job to which you aspire: "I have one of the jobs that I have aspired to as the CEO. Every time I put a stake in the ground, something unique happens - the next fun adventure, the next challenge, the next mountain."
What do you do to relax: "I have a great partner in my life - a wonderful man. I've never been married, and it took a lot of years for me to meet the right man and to value that relationship. I love antiquing and auctions and history and traveling to bizarre places. I like the things I have never done."