Jan Griffiths, 50
Vice President of Supply Chain Management, Inteva Products
First automotive job: Purchasing assistant for BorgWarner at a transmission plant in Wales, 1986
What attracted you to the auto industry? I had just come out of college and had never worked anywhere. I walked onto the shop floor [of BorgWarner's plant] and I felt it. I didn't know it, but I knew I wanted to be in it. I loved the machinery part of it because my father, a farmer in Wales, worked his entire life on tractors and bailers. I used to go to the pub with him and listen to him barter for tractor parts and hay and straw. The whole supply-and-demand thing - I got to understand that.
Big break: I spearheaded a restructuring project for AEES [a wire harness supplier owned at the time by Platinum Equity, an M&A firm]. I needed to move the entire purchasing team to Mexico. It was an extremely low-budget and fast-moving project that required me to hire many employees who had very little experience. I was given one year to have the unit up and running.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Probably the assignment I just described. In the private equity environment, you can't fail. It's simply not an option. Because if you do fail, you are out.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? That's an easy question. Paul Humphries was my boss at the BorgWarner plant in Wales. He was my first boss. He would throw me into situations and see how I would handle it. He assigned me to the tool crib on the shop floor. I got eaten alive the first few weeks. They pulled every trick in the book. But I learned a lot.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We don't expose young girls in school to the auto industry. It's manufacturing. They think it's hard, dirty, nasty, aggressive and male-dominated. We need to show them it's not a scary place but a great place to pursue a career. I like to make presentations to young women whenever I can.
Tell us about your family. I grew up on a farm in Wales, listening to my father barter tractors, horses and hay. Looking back on it, it was the best on-the-job training I could receive, as I was able to learn the ins and outs of supply chains. [Now] I have a 13-year-old daughter, Gwen. Spending time with Gwen is my No. 1 priority.
Do you spend time with friends? I like to talk to my 75-year-old German neighbor about life. She's an appraiser from Germany, and we talk about the challenges I had and the challenges she had. We do that over a glass of vodka.