Barbra Cooper, 62
Group Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Toyota Motor Company
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I was recruited and had never been in the auto industry. At the same time, I was being recruited by GE Capital on the East Coast, and it was more of a geographical decision for me -- East Coast or West Coast? I was more enamored by Toyota and what they had to offer than anything else.
First automotive job: Vice president of information technology for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. in 1996.
Proudest professional achievement: Developing and mentoring talented professionals and watching them succeed. I've tried to be a deliberate and conscious mentor, particularly to other women but to men as well. I was a teacher by education, and I never got that out of my system.
Current challenge at work: The change the entire industry is going through. You can't deny the impact of what's happened to the domestic industry and to Toyota, along with the compounding effect of the recession. It's really forced deep changes in how the manufacturers are going to go forward and compete. I think it will lend itself to a much more energized, streamlined and effective industry.
Is the industry becoming more open to female executives? It's an industry that was born out of mostly men who were car enthusiasts and people who had a mechanical orientation and engineering interest. But as companies have globalized, diversity has entered the equation.
On controlling your destiny: One lesson I learned along the way was that you have to take control of your career destiny. People sometimes leave themselves at the whim of the corporate process. I had a point in my career where an executive said something to me about making a change in my direction. It hadn't dawned on me until then that there was any limitation to the direction I was going. I didn't realize it would be important to do something different. That happens all the time to people. If you get that guidance early enough in your career, where you really can still shape and navigate, it helps you. My own revelation helped me achieve control over what I was heading for and how to do it.
What you do to relax: I am an avid reader and movie buff. I enjoy spending time with my family. I live near the beach and enjoy walking on the beach.
-- Lindsay Chappell