Jennifer Sepull, 45
Chief Information Officer, American Honda Motor Co.
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? It was the opportunity at the time, and it kind of runs in my family. My grandmother actually worked in the auto industry in the '40s and '50s, and that is a rare thing. She worked for a supplier to the industry, but she worked on the line. She was kind of a maverick -- she paved the way for a lot of women in the auto industry.
First automotive job: In 1984, I worked for an auto dealership in California as head of customer relations. The dealer's CSI rating was really low, so I was hired to bring it up. So I worked right out on the service drive.
We went from last [in the region] to first. I had a deal with the GM of the dealership that if I brought the CSI up he would give me a car.
What I love about my history is I was down on the ground working with the dealers. So when I got started I learned the importance of the dealership and the OEM relationship. If you don't have that balance and you're not working together, you're not going to be successful.
Proudest professional achievement: For a while it was earning my law degree. I was really proud to get that. But I think my proudest achievement is my job right now because it's taking everything that I've learned and experienced up until now and putting it into one job. I use my law degree. I have my experience in the auto industry. I'm using all of my technology experience. If you talk to some CIOs, they work in the back-end systems doing operational support.
Here at Honda my team is working with r&d, and we're bringing value to the field, and we're working with new products. Our architects and team -- we're really playing a pivotal role in the competitive advantage of the company.
So for me, that's a huge achievement to get that trust and to participate in the vehicle. It's like the Holy Grail for a CIO.
Current challenge at work: With the economic downturn, the biggest challenge is: How do we become more efficient? The SAAR [is] down to 11 million vehicles in North America this year, so we had to come to a new normal. We had to come up with more efficiency and reduced costs, but we also have to drive innovation. My biggest challenge is my biggest opportunity because I have the opportunity to bring value and competitive edge.
What you do to relax: I spend time with my family and friends. I love to travel.
-- Ryan Beene