Rachel Richards, 47
Vice President of Retail Strategy, Sonic Automotive Inc.
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? My father's career was in the transportation industry working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. I was always proud of what he did. My parents were extremely loyal to Ford products. When the opportunity came available to interview with Ford Motor Co., I wanted to get the job because I knew I would make my parents proud.
First automotive job: I worked for Ford Motor Credit Co. in 1984 as a customer service representative in debt collection.
Proudest professional achievement: I have mentored other women and men in the auto industry. When they tell me I've made a difference for them, that's when I'm most proud.
Current challenge at work: Most people don't enjoy buying a vehicle, and at Sonic we really want to change that. We are researching and developing a new experience for the customer.
On letting him win: In 1996, I was with Ford Credit and I was just promoted to be branch manager at the company's largest branch. I was the first female to run the branch, and the dealers were so nervous. They thought I was competent but were concerned I wouldn't be able to keep up with them on the golf course or drinking and eating. A lot of business is done on the golf course. I actually had to let one of them win some games. I still keep in touch with a few of those guys.
What you do to relax: I enjoy cooking, exercising and spending time with my daughter, husband and dear friends.
-- Donna Harris