Francoise Colpron, 45
Group President, North America, Valeo
First automotive job: I joined Valeo as the legal director of the climate control branch in 1998.
Big break: Moving from the legal field to the general management field in 2008. I decided to move to the U.S. for personal reasons and did not anticipate that I would have the opportunity to grow within a few years first into the general counsel - Americas role and then into the role of president. I learned that life in general, and a career in particular, is not linear; sometimes you take a lateral move which in the end allows you to have a quicker progression.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? We weathered the financial crisis. Then the challenge of the recovery was very steep. Right now our challenge is to transition from an automotive industrial company to more of a tech company to be a key player in the mobility world. The industry is reinventing itself.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? You need to work on both ends. You need to have more women visible at the top. But you also need to feed the pipe of candidates. There's very few women graduating from engineering. It's such a fantastic time to join the automotive industry with all the challenges with mobility and connectivity.
Tell us about your family. We have a daughter, and she's 9. It's always very interesting to keep a balance between work and family and oneself because you should not forget yourself in the mix. What I did very early on was to get help. Our daughter is quite well-adapted. She accepts the fact there is Valeo and there's mommy and daddy time.
What's your favorite weekend activity? Spending time with my family. We like to cook as a family. I love to read. In the winter we go to concerts and the opera. In the summer a little golf, but I play very badly.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. That I'm half Peruvian. People usually think I'm French. Actually, I'm not French. I was born in Montreal. My mother was Peruvian, so I was brought up in Latin America.
When and where was your last vacation? At Christmas we went to Brussels to see my brother and my new nephew.
I know you got exciting news recently. I was nominated for the Legion of Honor for France. (Colpron received the award Sept. 30.) It's kind of a big honor. This is a big deal, especially for a company like Valeo. It's a presidential award that recognizes my role in promoting French companies. We bring French startups to the U.S.