Susan Scarola, 59
Vice Chairman, DCH Automotive Group
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I didn't. I didn't seek out the industry. I sought out the company, and the people who ran the company. I knew DCH Auto Group from my work at KPMG as an auditor and very much respected the people. When I decided it was time for me to leave public accounting, I thought this would be a great small company to engage with. The fact that they were in the auto industry was secondary because at that point they were in several industries. I saw it as a great learning opportunity.
First automotive job: Even working with DCH as a client, the first thing I ever did at a dealership was a parts inventory. That was about 1983. In 1985 I went to DCH as manager of special projects, which meant I got to do whatever the CFO needed. It was really fun.
Proudest professional achievement: Clearly becoming president of DCH was an amazing surprise and honor and opportunity. I took over at the very end of 2006. I had intended to retire relatively early. I had actually reduced my schedule to part time. My last position had been CFO. I had hired and trained a replacement, and I was really backing out of my employment when [the company chairman] approached me and threw me on my head and said, "Don't leave. Be president of the company." I struggled with the decision for several weeks because it was contrary to my life plan. I took it, and I gave him a four-year commitment because I still did not see myself working forever.
Passing the torch: We came into this year ready to execute a succession plan we had been working on. George Liang is now president of the company. Under the title of vice chairman, I'm again moving into more of that part-time support role in addition to being a member of the board. I'm moving into what I would call the public affairs role, looking to promote the company and industry externally. So half a foot in DCH, half a foot in the industry and more time for myself. Right now I'm feeling like I hit the jackpot.
Current challenge at work: Continuing to see that the company takes the utmost care of our customers. The companies who truly do take good care of their customers are going to be the survivors, winners for the long term. And particularly as more and more women and young people are the customers, I do not believe the older traditional model of selling and servicing cars is going to survive. I want to continue to be a voice at the table for that evolution of the business. It's a very exciting and challenging time.
How has the recession affected opportunities and the work environment for women in the industry? First of all, the recession caused us to greatly reduce head count. It forced us to look at the whole business model and be open to more creative solutions. That can be net positive for women. We have to step away from the way we always did business.
On the retail side, the recession coupled with the growth of technology can definitely open more doors for women. Women tend to know how to multitask, and people who multitask successfully are wanted in today's business environment.
On a support group: When [I became] president, I visited every DCH dealership. What I found amazing and reassuring was that the women in the company -- the receptionists, the office staff, service advisers and some saleswomen -- they were so excited I had this opportunity. I was so touched by that outpouring of emotion. Immediately, I had this support group of all of these women in the company. I also felt it lifted the spirits of a lot of the women in the company. I think they felt I was approachable in a way you don't always feel male leaders are approachable.
What you do to relax: This time of year, I love to be in the garden. We love to travel, and we travel so we can eat. It's not about the museums. It's about the restaurants and the markets. The first thing we do when we land in a new place is find out where the markets are. We love to garden, we love to cook, we love to travel.
-- Amy Wilson