Aruna Anand, 47
Head of Continental Engineering Services, North America, Continental
Location: Auburn Hills, Mich.
Education: B.S., electrical and electronics engineering, Anna University; M.S., computer science and engineering, Oakland University
What drew you to the auto industry? Prior to me coming to the U.S., you could count the number of times I have traveled in a car. Owning a car was more aspirational back then. I came to Michigan to pursue my master’s in computer science. I drop-ped my resume off at the Siemens Automotive booth at the Society of Automotive Engineers show and I landed the job of an intern.
First automotive job: It was an internship at Siemens Automotive in June 1997. I really wanted to work. I needed money to survive. It seemed like a perfect opportunity. Three months after that I became a full-time software engineer in powertrain.
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Big break: My big break is my current position, head of the business unit for Continental Engineering Services, because it extended my scope of responsibility beyond engineering. This role exposed me to profit and loss, finance, sales, marketing, customer management, price management — the complete business.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? For me what is challenging is on the personal side. It’s how to act and how to make it known assertively that I am ready and willing and able to progress to the next step in my career. Associated with that is how do I showcase my contribution, my achievements, without looking like a headline grabber.
You’ve been in the industry 23 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? If I look at the last five years as compared to the previous 10 or 15 years, look at the amount of things that are happening around our industry. It’s a fun place to be right now because you have all these things like electrification, automated driving, seamless connectivity, 5G in the car. We are redefining the definition of mobility. In the past the auto industry was considered a very low-tech and mechanically intensive industrial kind of thing. But now so many new things have opened up, and it is a perfect place to be for talent. It’s very refreshing to see more women in technical roles.
What work achievement are you most proud of? Being part of the 100 Leading Women. It is not me that I am proud of. There is 101 or 102 and 103 women, and some are better than me, but they didn’t get the chance because they were not in the right place at the right time. I looked to the 2015 Leading Women; how incredible is the talent level on that list!
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? Never take anything for granted. Enjoy every moment. Try to contribute more than you take. Be grateful.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Three things. One: We need to do a better job explaining all the things happening in the industry, how exciting it is to be in this technology transformation and all the roles it is opening up. We need to be talking more and more about this to dispel the myth that it is a low-technology, male-dominated environment. Doing that would attract more talent. Two: We need strong diversity of thought in high-level management positions. When I am talking about diversity of thought, I am not just talking about gender. I am talking about age, experience, gender, ethnicity, background. If you have this, you are able to bring in talent, and it will build on itself. Three: We need to work on ourselves. For example, if I am in a position of creating a difference, if I have some influence, I have had my mentors who helped me in my career, so I should reach out to other women in my organization and outside my organization and bring them up. We as women need to be more confident to promote ourselves.
How do you bring your best self to work? Some of this goes back to my parents. Both were working parents. They instilled in me a strong work ethic. No matter how insignificant a job is, it is vitally important that you do it to the best of your ability. You do that, the results will take care of themselves. Also, it is important to be true to who you are, to be authentic. I don’t try to be someone who I am not. At work my authentic self is always there and people know what they see is what they get. I remember some advice from the chairman of Siemens Automotive. He said, “Everyone has options. Don’t whine. Take action.” When things are not working out well, never whine.
Tell us about your family. My husband is also in the auto industry and has a software background. We have two children. My son is at the University of Michigan doing his engineering [studies] in Ann Arbor. My daughter is a high school senior.
— Richard Truett