Michelle Cervantez, 41
Vice President, Marketing, Hyundai Motor America
Education: B.S., marketing, University of Southern California; M.B.A., University of Notre Dame
First automotive job: Customer relations representative at Ford Motor Co. in 1988
Most fun automotive job: "Being a field representative working directly with dealers and interacting with customers. I had a real sense of running my own business, being challenged and helping customers."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Being too hard on employees. It's critical to motivate people and have fun."
- 2003-05 Vice president, marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC
- 2002-03 Global process and strategy manager, automotive strategy, Ford Motor Co.
- 2000-02 Vice president, marketing, Jaguar Cars North America
- 1997-2000 Trustmark marketing manager, corporate advertising manager, Lincoln LS brand development manager, Ford Motor
- 1995-97 Marketing communications specialist, Lincoln-Mercury
- 1994-95 Asia-Pacific product planner, export operations, Ford
- 1992-94 Group leader supervisor, Ford Customer Service Division
- 1989-92 Regional zone manager, Boston and Dallas, Ford
Proudest achievement: "Working with people who are looking to develop their skills in the marketing area and helping them blossom. Those have been my proudest moments. It's the idea of the team you can create from individuals."
Current challenge: "The key moving forward is how can we continue to develop the brand and really accelerate the pace, and what can we do to really grow our business the way we want to grow it? There is a proper way to grow, and we want to make good, conscious decisions about how we grow.
"Product is always king. When I arrived, I had driven the new Sonata, and when you look at the vehicle you say, 'Wow, this is a Hyundai.' So we have to look at a way to bring that out and make sure people react to it that way. The vehicles are very, very good, so it makes my job a little more challenging to match up perception in the marketplace with what the vehicle delivers. The value story is very strong."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "Just how complicated the product can be and the length of time it takes to make changes or improvements."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "The industry is unique. I consider myself an automotive marketer. I think in some ways you have to find your area of expertise and develop that and grow that. I don't believe in being a generalist. If you're good at sales, you're good at sales; if you're good at marketing, you're good at marketing. Find what you're good at, and develop that as much as you can."
Job to which you aspire: "I tend to look at the world I'm operating in, and I'm not looking at the next world. As opportunities present themselves, I'll make the best choices I can."
What you do to relax: "I play golf. I go to spas; I love massages, manicures, pedicures and facials.
"Now that I'm in California, I have my family here and can hang out with my nieces and nephews and brother-in-law. I go out to dinner and enjoy the beach."