Catherine Perez, 44
Vice President Purchasing and Operating General Manager, Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organization
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I was looking, first of all, for purchasing; and second, for big stakes and big challenges; and third, for some pace and passion.
First automotive job: Head of a purchasing group for vehicle parts supply at Renault in 1995.
Proudest professional achievement: I'd have to say two things. First, I was with Nissan in Japan in purchasing in 2000 through 2003, and we successfully achieved the Nissan Revival Plan.
And second would be leading the purchasing team here through the economic crisis without any disruption among our suppliers.
Current challenge at work: Supplier capacity will be a big challenge for the whole industry. The industry is moving from a very low point in total vehicle sales to an unprecedented worldwide volume of 71.4 million units annual. All of our suppliers have downsized, restructured and put a hold on some investment because of financial constraints. It's not something that you can turn around in a week.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? If you don't have a certain percentage of females at the entrance, you won't have them at the exit. When I left business school, there was opportunity for women to go into finance or marketing. But how many of us were willing to go into sales? Now we are, but that's pretty recent. Today, if you look at the number of women who are graduating in areas like mechanical engineering, it is still pretty low.
On passion: There is a French expression where you say you have some passion for men, but for one specifically. So I can say I have passion for the auto industry and for my company specifically. I find my daily energy in the values of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The leadership of my CEO is my personal motivation on many of my decisions. There is a consistency here between the words and the action, the walking and the talking. Nissan is a performance organization, so it gives you the support and the encouragement to do better and to stretch. That's an addictive mix.
What you do to relax: Gardening and exercising. And I love cooking, but you know, I'm French, so it goes without saying.
-- Lindsay Chappell