Mindy Holman, 49
President and CEO, Holman Automotive Group
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I had no intention of working in the auto industry. I taught for a couple of years and coached tennis and expected to get my doctoral degree in psychology. We have a family-owned automotive business started by my grandfather in 1924. I have two older brothers -- one is a guidance counselor and tennis coach, and the other is a cabinet maker in Vermont. My parents didn't want to push us into it. I got wait-listed on a doctoral program, and my dad said, "You should understand the business; you own a substantial part of it." I decided to see what the business is about. I expected it to be boring and about numbers, and I was amazed and delighted to find out it was about people. I did not do the doctoral program.
First automotive job: I was an intern in 1986 and spent a year rotating as a service writer, selling cars, in human resources and in the accounting office.
Proudest professional achievement: I am most proud of offering good jobs and training to our people and watching them progress to take on new responsibilities and allowing them to have good employment to take care of their families.
Current challenge at work: Last year we had to lay off some people. That is something we don't do lightly. It was difficult, and now we are in a mode to bring some people back. My job is to make sure we have the best people in the right places.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? The industry has always been a little macho. I have been in it for 25 years and have seen that start to change. In general, there are differences between men and women. Women are often more natural collaborators and have more empathy. Those traits have become more highly valued.
When you go to a dealer meeting, there is never a long line at the ladies room.
On "You're not the boss": When I was a general manager, I had an irate customer that called and would not believe me when I told him that I was the general manager of Holman Hyundai. He insisted that I must be the secretary and finally hung up. That kind of stuff doesn't happen very often anymore.
Why did you to stay in the industry? The thing that convinced me to stay was having the opportunity to work closely with my father, Joseph. He is the epitome of fairness and decency. I can't explain why I did not put it together growing up. I thought businesspeople were more caricatures of what you saw on TV -- that they had to be tough or ruthless. Watching my dad run the business and making sure he put other people first and seeing that he was able to be so successful and still do it with so much integrity, that is what made me stick around.
What you do to relax: I am calling you from Ocean City, N.J. I am married and have two sons, 16 and 13, and my favorite thing is coming here for a long weekend. Instinctively, I start to relax.
-- Diana T. Kurylko