Lynn Longo, 47
Senior Vice President, Digital Cockpit, Harman Automotive
Education: B.S., Michigan State University; M.S., information technology management, Carnegie Mellon University
What drew you to the auto industry? I was born into it. It was something that was super prestigious in the little town I grew up in. The day I took my first job with General Motors, I ran home and told my father. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a sense of pride in how he felt.
First automotive job: I took a job in GM’s electrical engineering group in . I was doing HVAC validation of electrical modules. It was such a tiny little piece of the car at that time. It’s crazy to think how the electrical system has become the heart of the vehicle.
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Big break: The first time I got tapped on the shoulder to interview for a director-level position, it was something. I had never thought of myself as being able to aspire that high. When asked, “Hey, do you want to interview for this job?”’ I said, “Well, why me?” And a very smart man who was a mentor of mine said, “No, no, young lady. For the rest of your career, you have to ask, ‘Why not you?’ You have the capabilities. You have the skill.” It was very pivotal in not only getting to the next level of the company but getting to that next level in my confidence.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Getting brave enough to hop on a plane and see the industry the way I needed to see it. I had to get on an airplane and move to China for three years and see the digital ecosystem the 2.5 million cars we sell live in. Then I did two years in Europe doing connected cars at Opel and Vauxhall. Both experiences prepared me to come back to the U.S. and see the global space these cars need to live in.
You’ve been in the industry 22 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The automotive industry is getting more competitive and complex. The vehicle is getting more complex.
What work achievement are you most proud of? My oldest just graduated from Michigan State University with an electrical engineering degree, and he is working for an automotive company in the autonomous space writing code. The first time we had a conversation where Mom became cool because of what I do? That was a huge accomplishment for me, because as my sons were growing up, I had that question of “Was I choosing my career over them?” To see those two worlds come together was an amazing accomplishment. I’m able to have this career that I love and am interested in and now start to integrate my children into some of that.
What do you struggle with? For a very long time I kept my personal life to myself. I remember when I had my third son, one of the gentlemen I work with said, “You’re finally going to have a baby! I was like, “Well, I already have two kids.” I realized that I hadn’t brought them into my narrative and actually had worked super hard to hide that. So being a little more transparent with who I am is something I struggle with as a leader sometimes, and I’ve really invested in that over the past two years.
Describe your leadership style. My team would tell you, “She’s tough but fair.” I like to work hard and win. I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve and stretch targets, and I apply it to my team. But I’m fair. I’ll accept “Hey, we tried, we’re working on it, here’s the recovery plan. We’re going to get there.” And the other thing is you’ll know what I expect. There won’t be any fuzzy lines.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Maybe enjoy the climb a little more. I was pretty headstrong and leaned into every experience that I was given. I was so focused on the view.
Tell us about your family. I have three sons. I’m married to Kevin Longo. We both went to Michigan State and we’re die-hard Spartans. We’re super close with our family. My two sisters and my husband’s two brothers, we all live in the same area and our kids all go to the same elementary, junior high and high schools. I think that’s pretty unique. We’re communal in that way, and that’s something I protect and cherish in my life.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? I love nothing more than a summer weekend in Michigan, on the lake or by the pool with my family. Living out of the country for a while, you never realize how much you love summertime in Michigan.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year, and what did you get out of it? Measure What Matters by John Doerr. Part of what makes us successful is really being able to get at “What are the key things you’re going to accomplish in the next quarter?” Sometimes you see how fast this industry is growing and it gets a little overwhelming if you let it get on top of you.
If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you spend your extra hour? Focusing on my health. Getting in a walk or a run and investing in my health. It’s something that’s important to me, and I feel like it’s the one thing I see as optional that I shouldn’t.
— Pete Bigelow