CEO, GS3 Global
Location: Livonia, Mich.
Education: B.S., chemistry, Bennett College
What drew you to the auto industry? I never thought I’d be working in the auto industry, though I love cars. Lo and behold, Ford Motor Co. comes recruiting at a college fair at North Carolina A&T that I went to and met a representative from Ford and decided to give it a shot.
First automotive job: R&D engineer at Ford Motor Co. in 1986.
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Big break: Landing in the plastics division at Ford.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? It was when I first came to Ford. I think I was the second Black female engineer in the plastics division. That can be a little trying because now you’re having to maneuver an environment with men. Even though I had four brothers, it was different. But it wasn’t a challenge that I wasn’t prepared for.
You’ve been in the industry 34 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The number of women now that you see in positions that I didn’t see when I first came in. You didn’t see VPs being women. That’s been the biggest change is seeing more women taking the helm.
What work achievement are you most proud of? Starting and sustaining a business is one of the things I am proud of. I am able to say that I contribute to the community, that I’m able to mentor — I’m able to employ — people.
Describe your leadership style. It is very collaborative. I enjoy getting multiple opinions. I like hearing from my team because they’re the ones who have to make things work. We are a listening group, a learning group. I like for my team to be able to come to me and say, “Hey, I made a mistake,” and then we talk it through and see what we can do to prevent it for the next time.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Nah, it’s been a joy. It’s been a ride. I’ve loved every minute of it.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? When we’re talking to the young ones about the auto industry, I think we should include their parents in that discussion because when I do that, I notice then the conversation kind of changes. When the parent has more questions or they start bringing up their concerns, you’re able to debunk their concerns.
How do you bring your best self to work? I meditate. I started incorporating that in the morning and at night, and I spend about 20 minutes doing that. I think doing that just kind of settles everything down, and now — especially now with COVID — it helps with that centering.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? Since my mom had a stroke — maybe it’s more nerdy than anything — I have been trying to read up on research or things that have to do with brain trauma.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year, and what did you get out of it? Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly by Mori Taheripour. I feel like I’ve grown from it, and we’re much better in closing deals. We don’t get to “no” so quickly. We are able to come back, propose something else, and then, sometimes when I’m sitting right there, thinking of her book makes me think of the perfect response.
If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you spend your extra hour? Getting a full spa treatment from head to toe. Something just for me. I had put a metric down that at least one day out of three months would just be me — no family, no work, just me. I wouldn’t do anything. I think I accomplished that one, maybe two days.
— Audrey LaForest