Sue Unger, 55
Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, DaimlerChrysler
Education: B.A., economics, Michigan State University; M.B.A., Wayne State University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "When I went to school in the '70s, professors emphasized individual learning and individual achievement. Once I was in the business world, it didn't take me long to figure out that business success is a team event. Companies get things done through people working together toward common goals. I learned team-building skills as part of my on-the-job training. Business schools today realize the value of team experiences to their students, and group work is built right into the curriculum."
First automotive job: Financial analyst in sales and marketing at Chrysler Corp. in 1972
Career highlights (all with Chrysler)
- 1993-98 Executive director, information services
- 1993 Finance director, product development and Jeep/truck operations
- 1991-93 Director, corporate financial analysis
- 1973-90 Various finance positions
Most fun automotive job: "My current assignment is the most fun - the most challenging, but also the most fun. I really feel like I've learned more since 1998 than I have in my entire career. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have a global position, so I spend a lot of time overseas working and dealing with other cultures. That has really allowed me to grow in a much different area than I ever thought."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Early in my career, I did not network very much with women in my peer group, and that was a mistake. Back then, men tended to get a little suspicious when women gathered together fearing that simple conversation might result in one of those dangerous rallies for women's libbers. We have all learned a lot since then. While my networks today are rich and diverse and include both men and women, I have come to understand and deeply appreciate the unique support women can offer each other."
Proudest achievement: "Creating a global IT organization for DaimlerChrysler and really providing significant business value in the applications that we've developed and also dramatically reducing our cost structure."
On being successful: "You have to have great communication skills and great influencing skills. You have to have a way to be able to put things in pictures for people to visualize so that you are really able to motivate them and move the organization forward. I think a leader also has to have good connections with their peers, subordinates and superiors and also be able to network outside of their company."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "When I first started my career, there was an awful lot of thinking that you do not as a young lady want to go into the auto manufacturing business because it was just way too macho, difficult to really penetrate the glass ceilings and all that type of thing. So the surprise I had, it was a much easier environment than what I originally anticipated.
"The other surprise is the progress of women moving up the ranks. On a percentage basis, although it has improved dramatically, it still isn't where it needs to be."
Job to which you aspire: "Maybe running one of the business units."
What do you do to relax: "We have a cottage up north, so we do a lot of swimming and boating, and a lot of downhill skiing."