Liz Wetzel, 41
Design Director, Global Design Brands, General Motors
Education: B.F.A., industrial design, University of Michigan
What your college professors didn't teach you: "How to work with people and the people skills you need in this business. In school, the focus is on accomplishments and your own goals. It took me a while to learn how to let go and trust people without stepping in."
First automotive job: Associate engineer at General Motors in 1986
Career highlights (all with GM)
- 2004-05 Director, exterior design, international joint venture programs
- 2002-04 Director, small and mid-sized car interiors
- 2001-02 Director, body frame integral interiors
- 1999-2001 Executive vehicle chief designer
- 1997-99 Vehicle chief designer, Buick Rendezvous
Most fun automotive job: "From 1986 to 1988 I worked as an associate engineer for GM. I worked on a program for Chevrolet code-named B2B, for back to basics. It was an entry-level small car whose base price started at around $6,000. Although my title was engineer, I really worked as a product designer inventing interiors that were functional, innovative and appealing to the young consumer.
"It was a blast. We had people on that project that were wild, and we were given the permission to come up with whatever idea we had."
Proudest achievement: "The biggest project for me was being the chief designer on the Buick Rendezvous."
Current challenge: "How to create a better design and better products with less and less money while not sacrificing better quality and materials. The competition is at our heels, or in front of us, and we need to continually do more with less money. That makes you really think about where you put every dollar on every project."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "The big thing is to build relationships and network. Find a mentor. Women tend to sit in the corner and put their head to the grindstone and work, while men network and learn what's going on in the organization. So much of this business takes place in the hallways."
What you do to relax: "I relax with my family and my two boys."