Michelle Walker, 44
Senior finance director for emissions, thermal and turbo systems, BorgWarner North America
Big break: Got hands-on manufacturing experience by working outside of Michigan at several manufacturing plants
The shift from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor is reverberating far beyond the engineers developing the new powertrains. Even the finance people at suppliers and elsewhere are having to learn about the new technology.
Michelle Walker has worked on integrating acquisitions during her BorgWarner career, but last year’s purchase of Delphi Technologies was on an order of magnitude she hadn’t seen. The former General Motors parts unit, with plants all over the world, presented Walker with one of the biggest and most pressure-filled jobs she’s ever faced.
That the deal closed during a pandemic added another twist.
“Delphi dwarfed anything that we’ve done in the past,” Walker said. “We are very different companies, with different technologies and different cultures, and we’re still working through it. The people from Delphi have been great to work with. They’ve been asking a lot of great questions.”
As for the pandemic and working through supply disruptions and changes in the market, Walker says she doesn’t let herself get overwhelmed by things out of her control.
“I just try to take things one day at a time, one thing at a time, and I try and work through the issues, not stress over the things I can’t control,” she says. “That’s probably the most important thing the pandemic taught us. There are things outside of your control you can’t spend too much time being upset about.”
One reason change doesn’t knock Walker off course is because she got used to upheaval at an early age.
“I moved a lot as a kid. I think I went to a different school in sixth, seventh and eighth grade,” she said. “So I have been really used to change for my entire life. I am also the kind of person who gets a little bit bored when things are exactly the same for too long. I want to sort of shake things up. I have been excited both for my career and for the industry by what has been happening. I find it invigorating.”
She credits a series of small breaks, not one big one, for her success. One of those small breaks was a transfer to a plant where she got experience “on the ground” in manufacturing.
If there’s one thing Walker learned about herself in the past 18 months, it is that she has excelled in tough conditions.
“The pandemic in some ways was beneficial. It allowed us to step back and reassess things. We all learned we are very resilient. I learned I may be more flexible than I thought.”
— Richard Truett