Paula Lillard, 49
Vice President, Human Resources and Administration, Mercedes-Benz USA
First automotive job: Stockroom supervisor at Dayton-Walther Corp. foundry in Dayton, Ohio, in 1981
Most fun automotive job: "I look back on my days at the foundry as fun. It was a great manufacturing learning experience. It was considered unusual to have a woman working in a foundry, but they really made sure I knew the equipment. It was a plant maintenance job, so I got to crawl through every piece of machinery they had."
- 2001-03 General manager, administration, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama Inc. engine plant, Huntsville, Ala.
- 1999-2001 Assistant general manager, human resources, Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc., Erlanger, Ky.
- 1996-99 Manager, then assistant general manager, production control, Toyota Motor Manufacturing
- 1992-96 Manager, production control, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc., Georgetown, Ky.
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "I've made this mistake more than once - which is letting pride get in the way of doing a better job. Sometimes it's OK to be wrong and not have all the answers. That allows you to go back and learn from other people's ideas about how to do it better."
Proudest achievement: "The startup of the second plant here at Mercedes. I was proud to be able to come into the company at a time when we needed to go from 2,000 team members to 4,000 and to participate in that expansion."
Current challenge: "Our challenge now is transitioning from a project to a stable production environment. We are working to get everybody back to a normal production-steady state."
On being successful: "Never give up. Never let somebody tell you that you can't do something. Be yourself, be tenacious, and be a little stubborn."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "I'm not easily surprised. But it has been a personal surprise to see that I've been able to get so far in my career without a college degree."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "We still have the idea in the auto industry that women should go into certain fields, like administration, HR or public relations. But there are more and more opportunities in production, maintenance and engineering. My advice is that if that's something that you want to do, go for it."
Job to which you aspire: "I don't aspire to a job. I strive to be the best at whatever job I'm doing."
What you do to relax: "I used to ride a motorcycle until I wrecked it. I enjoy golfing, which is safer. I read a lot. I work in my flower garden."