Kim Pittel, 50
Director of Transmission and Driveline Engineering, Ford Motor Co.
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I started working for GM in high school in the metallurgical laboratory at Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing. I worked for them through high school and college, testing oils, metalworking fluids, part hardness and case depth on heat-treated parts. I tested plastic components for tensile strength and yield strengths. Most kids my age were working at Arby's and McDonald's. I have always loved math and science, and this early experience in the auto industry brought both of those to life. It was just natural to move into the auto industry.
First automotive job: Chemical engineer in 1981 for Edwards Oil Co., which dealt in reclaimed oil and other cutting fluid for suppliers.
Proudest professional achievement: The rear solid axle on the 2005 Ford Mustang. Getting it right was the hardest thing I've ever done.
Current challenge at work: Globally launching four new transmissions -- all six-speeds; four different platforms; front-drive and rear-drive planetary and dual-clutch manual -- all in the same year.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for a female executive? I haven't found it to be difficult. I have work-life balance issues, but everybody in America struggles with that.
How has the recession affected opportunities and the work environment for women in the industry? I don't think it has. It's hard for both men and women. Everybody's downsizing. That's not a woman problem; that's an industry problem.
Dream job: This is a pretty good one right now. It's strategically challenging and rewarding tactically. It's an engineering dream job come true. My favorite job so far is plant manager, which I had a chance to do at Livonia [Mich.] Transmis-sion and Essex Aluminum Casting Plant.
What you do to relax: Spend time with my family. I love going to soccer games just to watch my daughter play. Reading. Movies. Travel and researching travel.
-- Jesse Snyder