Nancy Fein, 56
Vice President, Customer Relations, Toyota Motor Company
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I started working in the auto industry when I came to California in 1982 and answered an ad for Toyota. It sounded like a great job, and it turned into a great career. It was the company and the location, quite honestly, not the industry.
First automotive job: Warranty analyst, Toyota Division. There was no Lexus or Scion back then. There was a sign on the wall that said "Beat Datsun."
Proudest professional achievement: Navigating the last year here at Toyota, keeping my staff motivated and energized while taking care of our customers. I'm not counting how many hours I'm working.
Current challenge at work: Ninety percent of our job is that we fix the customers. It's not about fixing the cars. We have to take care of the customer, make them feel safe, wanted, comfortable, and generally reassuring them. Normally, we average 2,500 to 3,000 calls a day. At the peak [of the recalls in January], we had 96,000 calls in one day. I had three outside vendors that were assisting, as well as pulling back alumni, anyone who ever answered a phone. It didn't stay at that volume for long, but we were at 20,000 calls a day for a while. Right now we're at 5,000 to 6,000 calls a day. I have a phenomenal staff of people who are extremely dedicated and who work a lot of overtime. I didn't lose a single person.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? You look around the industry and we celebrate the top 100 women, and I know them all. That means it's a pretty small group. But I have never felt that it was a restricted group at Toyota or anywhere else. The auto industry just attracts more men, so there are fewer women in the pipeline. I have never felt that it restricted opportunities.
Dream job: I love my job, but I am willing to take on new challenges. I've moved around 14 times, and I'm still willing to take those challenges.
On pushing the envelope: Early in my career, I had a boss -- who shall remain nameless -- who told me that women couldn't be field travelers. He said they couldn't be successful, that dealers wouldn't respect a woman. I found that to be utterly untrue. If you can do the job, the dealers trust you. But there weren't any women doing it then, so we hadn't proven that we could. That gave me motivation. Rather than making me give up, it gave me more resolve. Then [Toyota executive] Dave Illingworth asked me what I wanted to do next, and I said, "Go into the field," and he said, "All right." It's about pushing the envelope.
What you do to relax: I am a licensed single-engine airline pilot, little Cessnas. I scuba dive, play tennis and cook.
-- Mark Rechtin