Vice President, Commercial Plant Manager, Bosch
Location: Farmington Hills, Mich.
Education: B.S., economics, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, North Macedonia; M.S., finance, Walsh College
What drew you to the auto industry? I was born and I studied in Macedonia. I moved to the U.S. to pursue my master’s degree. I wanted to experience a different kind of life. I got two jobs; was at a tool-and-die shop. I was so curious, I was going into the shop floor all the time. From there, I really stayed in automotive.
First automotive job: My first automotive job was in 1993, and I was the financial analyst at the tool-and-die shop.
Big break: I would say it was coming to Bosch. When I was younger, I always wanted to work in a traditional company. I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger and was changing and was innovative. That was really the pivotal moment for my career because Bosch gives you so much opportunity to experience and to be challenged.
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What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? The challenge to go on an international assignment in Germany. I was given an opportunity to be a global project lead for a post-merger integration. For me, going there, being in a different environment, having a job that I had not done before, I had to realize, how am I going to be successful? How do I get these people together, to trust me? That was a challenge on its own, to get people there to understand — in addition to the processes and systems — the culture [of Bosch].
You’ve been in the industry 25 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? In the last 10 years, we are experiencing a very big, steep change. Every day, we have something new, and it’s beautiful. I would say the change is for some, uncomfortable. You want to be an expert in everything. You want to do everything good. And then, you come to an industry where you’re changing all the time. In one day, we live three-dimensionally. You learn from the past, you apply in the present, and then, you’re looking at scenarios for the future.
What work achievement are you most proud of? I truly, truly care about people. That’s really what makes me unique and an authentic leader. I’m very courageous. I’m not afraid of any challenge because I believe when you put your mind and heart in it, you will do everything. You have to believe in yourself.
What do you struggle with? There are three things that you always have to be on your toes for to run life well. For me: my family — that’s my husband and my daughter and also my parents — my health and also the company and the business. If one of them is not aligned, I don’t think a person can be successful.
Describe your leadership style. I give a chance to everybody to express what they think. If you don’t give a chance to everybody, you form blind spots. You have to have a diverse team, and you need to know that that’s part of the success. I like the moment when everybody starts talking and giving ideas, and it’s like a fireball. I liked that when I was in that position with my leaders. It’s open, fair, having trust and having fun.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? You have to really get together with the team and discuss, what is the priority now under COVID? What are we going to do to make the business successful, still invest in strategy and still have our associates healthy? It’s difficult. We don’t see each other face-to-face; however, you have many ways to communicate. But you have to keep everybody informed.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Usually, I don’t regret what I do. Maybe in my second company, I stayed too long, I would say. I like challenge, and I stayed there for 11 years. I always embrace challenge, but somehow it was a comfort. If I had done that and then I moved to Bosch earlier, I maybe would have experienced even more things.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? You think if it’s the automotive industry, it is more male-dominated. We’ve realized it doesn’t matter what industry it is, it matters what’s in your heart what you want to accomplish. We need to be their advocates for that. We need to really tell these young ladies out there it is really good and cool to work here.
Tell us about your family. My birth family — my mom and my dad — they still live in Macedonia. I have a brother; he’s in Michigan. They are the core for me, for my success. Here, my “new” family is my husband and my daughter; she is 15 years old. I would say that my family, my parents, my husband and my daughter, they’re the support to me. They’re my rock. That’s how I am successful.
— Alexa St. John