Mary Barra, 43
Executive Director, Vehicle Manufacturing Engineering, General Motors
Education: B.S., electrical engineering, General Motors Institute; M.B.A., Stanford University
First automotive job: Senior plant engineer at Fiero assembly plant in Pontiac, Mich., in 1985
Most fun automotive job: "I've had a lot of great jobs. The most recent was being the plant manager at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant."
Career highlights (all with GM)
- 2003-04 Plant manager, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly
- 2001-03 Executive director, competitive operations engineering
- 1999-2001 General director, internal communications, corporate staffs
- 1996-99 Executive assistant to chairman and vice chairman
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Having an engineering background, I feel I know technically the right answer, but it doesn't do any good if I can't get the team to understand and can't get there. You have to be able to explain your position and know what is the right answer from a customer perspective. I've made that mistake a few times and have had to learn. Just getting a functional solution generally will not lead to success."
Proudest achievement: "In life, it is my family. I have a 6-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son. In work, my proudest achievement is being able to contribute to GM and be part of the team as we maintain our industry leadership and continue to improve."
Current challenge: "I have global responsibilities for several areas of manufacturing and engineering. My biggest challenge is managing with people working around the world - Shanghai to Europe to Australia."
What you do to relax: "I spend time with my kids, watching my son play hockey or soccer and my daughter in gymnastics."