Kim Harris Jones, 45
Vice President, Product Finance, Chrysler Group
Education: B.B.A., accounting, University of Michigan; M.B.A., University of Michigan
What your college professors didn't teach you: "They didn't teach us about the politics of the business world. I am not sure it is something a college professor could teach you. But perhaps they could warn you more."
First automotive job: Financial incentive analyst at General Motors in 1986
Most fun automotive job: "Controller for Mopar parts, our parts division. It is one of the few jobs where you get to run the business because it is pretty much an autonomous unit. It took every aspect of my background and put them all together in one job."
Career highlights (all with Chrysler)
- 2004 Director, product financial control, product development finance
- 2002-04 Controller, Mopar parts, sales and marketing finance
- 2001-02 Director, business planning and competitive analysis, corporate financial analysis
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "My biggest mistake was underestimating differences between cultures in companies.
"When I came from General Motors to Chrysler, I thought, 'Same industry, same town, and the companies are very much alike.' They are both very good companies. But what it takes to be successful at one is not the same at the other. The assumption that all automotive cultures are equal is a bad assumption. I had to regroup once I got here and understand the differences.
"The reality was that GM is a more conservative company than Chrysler."
Proudest achievement: "There are two things. I feel very proud of having the ability to shape the future of the company in my current position. Also, many people have noted I am the first African-American female at the company at this level, and that is an achievement."
Current challenge: "My current challenge as vice president of product finance is helping ensure that our future products make money for the company. That is what my charge is. I work in the product development side of the business, and I have to make sure we are developing cars that can help us deliver value to our shareholders.
"We are an industry where prices are at best flat and are going down. I am on the cost side of the business - delivering what the customers want, at a cost we can afford and at a price they are willing to pay and one that also delivers profits to us. That is a challenge."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "What surprises me is the complexity of the industry. I am in the product development world, where you have to try to anticipate what people want many years ahead of time.
"I had a meeting this morning about a vehicle that won't come out until 2012. You are trying to foresee the future and anticipate what the competition will do. It is an extremely complex business model. We make very big bets. When I came into the industry I didn't know how complex the issues were and how capital-intensive the industry is."
Job to which you aspire: "Going back to Mopar in an operational mode as opposed to the finance role. And, of course, I would always like to have my boss' job. He is the chief financial officer."
What you do to relax: "I try to make at least an annual trip to a very nice health spa. I read books, typically while I travel. I have 10- and 13-year-old sons, and I enjoy traveling with my husband and kids."