Maryann Goebel, 54
Chief Information Officer, General Motors North America, General Motors
Education: B.S., mathematics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
First automotive job: Chief information officer for GM's truck group in 1997
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Since I went to an engineering and science college, everything was always looking for the exact right answer. The thing that has become most useful to me in business is understanding that it is necessary to look at alternatives, do trade-offs, and that sometimes what appears to be the right answer on the surface actually might not be the right answer."
- 2002-03 Chief strategy officer for information technology, General Motors
- 2001-02 Chief information officer, Frito-Lay Inc.
- 1999-2000 Chief information officer, GM Europe
Most fun automotive job: "I guess I live in the moment. So I would say the one I'm in is the most fun. It certainly has a lot of breadth and depth to it."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "I was directing a team for selecting a vendor to perform a certain project for us. Both we and the vendor agreed they were eminently qualified to perform the work. The more we got into the work, the more we realized that it wasn't a good match between us and that vendor. So we agreed to part company. That was probably the first time in my career where I had to admit that that decision, despite all the analysis and due diligence, apparently wasn't the right decision.
"The lessons learned to me are numerous, not the least of which are making sure you are willing to admit that maybe cutting the ties is best for everybody involved."
Proudest achievement: "When somebody sees value in what I do and in how I do it, and then takes the time to tell me that they are adding that to their repertoire, that's what makes me proud."
Current challenge: "I guess always doing more for less and certainly supporting our business and our business challenges in terms of delivering more IT capabilities to help with globalization, to help with efficiency, to help strategically get to where we need to go."
On being successful: "First and foremost, (GM Chief Information Officer )Ralph (Szygenda) coined this phrase: 'You have to bloom where you are planted.' That means focusing on what the assignments are that you have for today and achieving your results and taking your accountability. Your success is generally based on your ability to get results. Success is also then partially due to seeing opportunities and being willing to take advantage of them when presented. Lots of perspiration - lot of hard work. There is luck, being at the right place at the right time."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "I was and am still amazed by the size of everything we do - the size and scale. From the number of zeros in my budget, to the number of vehicles we produce, to the number of employees it takes globally, to the number of suppliers and customers and individuals that are impacted by the automotive industry."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "I would give the same advice to guys as I do to women. It all starts with bloom where you are planted. Another piece of advice that I give them: Technical competency is the price of admission. You are expected to have technical competency, and you are expected to keep up with it; being a team player, and also in our environment, critical thinking."
Job to which you aspire: "I've worked for Ralph (Szygenda) numerous times. And I would continue to work for him, until he makes the decision to move on. Then I want his job. But not a minute sooner. I am perfectly happy working for Ralph. He's been a great mentor for me."
What you do to relax: "I do ballroom dancing. It's relaxing because it requires the use of all of your senses, so you can't possibly be distracted by work."