Faith Wandrie, 58
Vice President Global Supply Chain, American Axle & Manufacturing Inc.
Education: B.A., business administration, Davenport University
What drew you to the auto industry? Initially, it was a friend of my dad’s who was director of purchasing at General Motors. I got to know him through my dad while I was in college. When I was about to graduate, he asked me what I wanted to do. He had just awarded some business to a company that was new to the industry. He directed me there. I interviewed and got the position. And I have been in the auto industry ever since.
First automotive job: Executive assistant to the CEO of Benteler Automotive Corp. in 1983. I was the second person hired.
Big break: I had just moved into materials, in supply chain for about a year. I was asked if I was interested in [a] material manager position in Goshen, Ind., at a stamping facility. I had to make a decision with my husband if we were going to move our family. Management positions didn’t come around that often, and I had to decide to take it now or wait a couple of years. It was my first chance to get into management. I went down there, and I spent three months in the position. Within three months they made me a materials manager, and also gave me procurement.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I’ve had a lot of challenges. In 2000, I was asked to go to one of our European plants that was having trouble getting parts shipped out. For me to be asked to go to Europe when they already had a full supply chain team was a challenge — not only in what they were asking me to do, but to balance that against some of my peers who maybe should have been asked to do that. I brought a couple of people with me and we spent about a month designing a new [production] system, engaging the plant and doing a pilot and successfully implementing that system that tracked the inventory and, more importantly, met the customer demand.
You’ve been in the industry 37 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The evolution of communication. In my career, we’ve gone from walking out on to the plant floor to communicate with operations leaders — or having to wait until the next production meeting — to 24/7 communication with those inside and outside the plant.
What do you struggle with? I have high expectations for myself. And meeting commitments is important to me. So, I struggle with doing everything and anything in order to meet those commitments, even if it means giving up personal time.
Describe your leadership style. I lead by example. I would not ask anyone to do something I would not do myself. I have high expectations of myself and of people as well.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? The biggest thing I have learned is that the things you have in place to be agile, aligned made us a resilient member of the supply chain. We pulled out our playbook and we were able to keep everything moving without having to do many things different.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? STEM programs were not around when I was young. It’s important to keep building those programs so that we get more women into the industry. It’s OK to be an engineer!
What’s the best part of your day? When I first get up at 6 a.m. and turn on my computer. I have a little routine. I spend the first half hour just really trying to set myself up for the day. What must I do today? It helps me prioritize my day. Then I take the time to reflect on the bigger picture. What am I trying to accomplish this month and am I on the right path?
How do you bring your best self to work? I really don’t let things nag at me. I am focused. I may have to deal with them at the end of the day, but first and foremost, I have a job to do. It’s a matter of balance.
Tell us about your family. My son is a chef and my daughter is an engineer. My husband is a stay-at-home dad.
Are you able to achieve work-life balance? I always have. When I am home I try very hard to be home. I can’t always do that, but I try to stay focused. I might keep checking my phone for emergencies, but if it can wait, it waits.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? Now it is golfing and boating. In the winter we play euchre with friends and have dinners in friends’ homes.
— Richard Truett