Platform director for E-Systems, Lear Corp.
Big break: Being chosen as a program manager for wire harnesses, one of the company’s top moneymaking products
The auto industry’s rising stars typically are executives who take on assignments outside their comfort zones.
For Briana Porter, that moment came less than a year after she joined Lear Corp., when she transferred from its electronics division in 2012 to become a program manager for wire harnesses.
“It was very fast-paced — never a dull moment,” Porter said. “There are constant change orders, and you are touching everything in the vehicle. That was a huge learning curve for me.”
She had joined Lear in 2011 after stints with Alcoa Fujikura and JST, a Japanese supplier of terminals and connectors. Lear, which was a customer of JST, hired Porter the same day she had her job interview.
“I liked how they worked on things,” she recalled. “I liked how they were so driven and passionate.”
While Porter’s business degree from Siena Heights University in 2004 had gotten her a job in the auto industry, she did not have an engineering background.
“Early in my career, it was very intimidating,” she said. “I expected that I should have all the answers, but I learned that I don’t have to. It’s OK to say, ‘Let me pull my engineering people in.’ ”
She also proved willing to take other career risks. Lear’s portion of a midcycle upgrade of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator threatened to fall behind schedule, “so I jumped in and took over,” she said. “It was very challenging, but successful.”
Porter’s top customer is Ford. She also handles the Nissan and Mercedes accounts.
As platform director of E-Systems, Porter oversees eight program managers. Since three of them are relatively new in their jobs, she mentors them weekly with one-on-one sessions.
She also heads a team that is streamlining Lear’s data management system for wire harnesses. But Porter’s biggest day-to-day challenge is the shortage of parts, computer chips and workers that has plagued the auto industry during the pandemic.
“While we are used to constant changes in wiring, it’s now 100 times worse,” Porter said. Automakers “will tell us they’ll be out of computer chips in two months, so let’s bring in a new module because it’s available.”
A new module, of course, requires new wiring. “We have changes every day,” she said. “It’s a challenging business, and it always has been — now more than ever.”
— David Sedgwick