Christine Sitek, 54
Executive Director, Global Purchasing & Supply Chain, General Motors
Education: B.A., materials management, Michigan State University; MBA, University of Detroit Mercy
What drew you to the auto industry? A lot of it was proximity and family. When you grow up in this area of Michigan, it’s hard to have a family that wasn’t supported by the automotive industry. My grandfather retired from Fisher Body at General Motors. My uncle had a 30-year career with the union leadership at GM. My dad worked in the supply industry for the automotive industry. I was just surrounded by it. The broad industry supported all these families in such a positive way. When I graduated from school, I think the joint market share between Ford and GM was exceeding 50 percent. To get a job at the Big 3 was the place to be. The perception was that you could take care of your family for your entire career and that it would serve you well.
First automotive job: I hired into GM officially out of college in 1989, and I worked in material control. I actually was chasing parts to assure operation at our bus plant. Yes, we used to make buses. We would make two a day out of a plant in Pontiac.
Big break: I’m not an engineer, and aside from a material control position at a plant for a while, I didn’t have any type of long-term plant assignments. I spent the first 21 years of my career working in global supply chain purchasing-type roles. And I was given an opportunity after that to go take a leadership position in manufacturing-engineering. It was completely unheard of at the time to take a business degree person without the depth and manufacturing and engineering to go into that organization. It was like I left the company. It was a huge test of adaptability and learning agility. I think that position and what it created completely changed the trajectory of the balance of my career, probably for the last 10 or 12 years.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I’ve had more opportunities in these 32 years than I’ve had challenges. The handful of times that I found myself in a specific challenge, I actually think it’s because I didn’t believe in myself enough. As you progress in your career with maturity, that happens a little bit less. I found it was really important to have trusted advisers who would shake me a little bit and say, “Get back in the ring. That’s not you. That’s not how you should be feeling about it.”
You’ve been in the industry 32 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? It’s probably difficult to ask that question without thinking about electric vehicles and the tipping point that’s happening now in the industry and the massive number of competitors that it’s bringing to industry globally. It’s forcing all OEMs to partner and/or lean in very heavily with where they’re making investments. I think EVs are really going to be the one that transforms the industry the most.
Describe your leadership style. Approachable. I learned over the years that if leaders don’t have an environment where people tell them stuff, then bad news doesn’t get delivered. Good news doesn’t get shared. People don’t ask for help. It goes well beyond having an open-door policy. You have to have the open door, but then people have to be willing to walk through it.
Tell us about your family. I am married to my high school sweetheart. He actually planned my 16th birthday party. That’s how long we’ve known each other. We have two children. All four of us work at GM. My husband works in the engineering organization. My daughter actually works in purchasing as well. She’s a buyer in the organization. And my son just started in the finance organization in June. We joke that we have the Shelby Township, Mich., GM Tech Center with all of the functions represented.
Are you able to achieve work-life balance? When people started saying it was work-life integration, I felt less guilty about it. I think when you talk about balance, do you start to think everything needs to be 50-50 all the time? And that’s really not true. If you look at it in too short term of a view, you could feel off balance because there’s one day I’m going to give more to my family than I do to my professional life. But then the next day, I’m likely going to give more to my professional life. Everybody assumes that I missed something really big or I had to give something up, and I never really did. I look back on my kids growing up, and there is nothing that I feel like I missed out on. So I think that would tell you that I found that balance somehow. But it’s not without a lot of support.
— Hannah Lutz