Olga Alavanou, 48
Executive Vice President of Supply Chain Management, Yazaki North America
First automotive job: I was a contract engineer with Chrysler in 1988 in product development with body electronics. It was right after I graduated from Wayne State University.
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I always enjoyed cars and technology. I decided to pursue an electrical engineering degree, so I always knew I would pursue a technical career.
To be honest, the job with Chrysler was what was offered to me. As soon as I started working with the product, I knew it was the right fit. The first program was the Dodge Shadow, and it was built at the Sterling Heights [Mich.] plant. I was responsible for the motorized seat belt system.
Proudest professional achievement: A few years ago, I was working at Yazaki as part of the General Motors team, and that team was responsible for growing our business with GM. I was part of the team that won the corporation of the year award.
Current challenge at work: My recent responsibilities include the integration of all supply chain activities within all the Americas organization. My challenge is to develop a regional organization that will add sustainable value to the corporation.
It's integrating an organization across the U.S., Mexico and Central America -- it's the first time we're doing such a thing. In the past we've had separate organizations. This new organization will be inclusive and will be represented from all the regions to take advantage of all the talent that exists in the company.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? What I have seen is that often, due to the fact that we have a limited number of female executive role models, women seem to be unsure of what type of leadership style that they need to adopt to be successful in the industry
It's important for women to be able to quickly adopt a leadership style that they're comfortable with, but at the same time I think it's very important that this style fits well with the organization but also with the other management within the organization.
I've seen a lot of women struggle with that.
What you do to relax: I read, travel and spend time with my husband.
-- Ryan Beene