Becky Blanchard, 40
Director, Ram Truck Brand, FCA US
What attracted you to the auto industry? I grew up in Michigan, so I've always been around the automotive industry. I had a lot of family members who worked in the automotive industry, and I was always good at math and science. My dad encouraged me to study engineering, and that's what really attracted me to the industry. I like cars and, being from this area and having automotive everywhere around you, I really didn't think much about it.
First automotive job: It was at Chrysler in 1997, in the Institute of Engineering program (a two-year rotation through vehicle engineering departments). They sent me back for my master's degree at the same time.
Big break: I think it was many things, including the CIE program because that really is a jump-start; you got to see what you like, what you didn't like, you got to see so many areas of the company within a two-year period and really work with so many different people. I walk on that side of the building, and I still see so many people that I know.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? The transition [from engineering to marketing]. Now I'm on the commercial side of the business. When I first started my MBA, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I sort of thought maybe finance. I was an engineer, and it sounded like a numbers thing, very black and white, like engineering. But I soon discovered that was not for me. Then I started taking strategy and marketing classes, and I thought it was great. I really liked being tied to the end customer. I liked being tied to the end product more than being focused on maybe one system from a technical standpoint. One of the biggest challenges was proving to myself that I could make that transition, going from the technical career to the commercial side and convincing people in marketing that I could have that different mindset.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My parents. My dad worked in the industry, at a supplier. He was in sales, but he was pretty technically savvy not being an engineer. He guided my career direction into engineering. Even if you don't want to be an engineer forever, it does give you a great foundation. And my mom really being a cheerleader. She's always supported me in everything that I wanted to do. They both instilled a strong work ethic in me.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think a lot of it is just being a good role model because I do mentor a lot of women and men, and it's all about leading by example. They see that I can have a family and I can have a successful career.
Tell us about your family. I have two boys, 5-year-old Evan and Luke, 2, and my husband, J.P.
What's your favorite weekend activity? We go to swim first thing on Saturday morning with the boys. Evan swims on his own now, but I get in the pool with Luke, and we do our little swim class together and then we go out for breakfast. We also love to go to the park and go on bike rides with the boys, and we like to go out for hot dogs in the summer. It's all about the kids on the weekends.
What's your guilty pleasure? Ice cream. Anything with chocolate is good.
When and where was your last vacation? It was to Miami with the kids. My husband's work had an event down there, and they tacked on some family days at the end, so we all went down there. But where we really like to go with the kids is Disney World.