Manheim North America, a unit of Cox Automotive
What attracted you to the auto industry? I was exposed to other divisions in [Cox Enterprises], and one of them was Manheim. I was drawn by the fast pace and high energy.
First automotive job: COO for Manheim in 2011
Big break: I led a lot of change initiatives in my past life with Cox and its telecom side of the business. I believe the leaders saw that as a good fit for what was happening in the automotive industry.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? We made seven moves over the course of my career, all different states. Most of the time, it was only the four of us. Having to create a support system — schools, doctors, friends — for my family every time we made a move was really a much tougher challenge than things going on in my work life.
Balance that with my spouse as an income earner. Every time we moved, he had to start over, financially and from a self-esteem perspective. Sometimes that was pretty tough on him.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? The CEO of Cox Communications, the company I worked for previously. He was Ivy League-educated, a rough-and-tumble former Navy guy. A significant, imposing figure, but when you met him once, he never forgot who you were. He was a huge, quiet supporter of women. He stuck by people like me and some of my peers who went on to do bigger things in the company. His name was Jim Robbins. He's a legend in our company.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think it's a well-kept secret. We — and I take part responsibility as a leader — need to do a better job of marketing the unlimited opportunity that I see ahead, especially for someone who is considering what their career is going to be.
Tell us about your family. I have a husband and two grown daughters. They are both married, and now I have three baby grandsons. I'm proud to say that both of my daughters are the primary breadwinners in their households. I'd like to think they've picked up a thing or two along the way, growing up and watching how my husband and I have balanced, how we've thrived and succeeded as a family and in our professions. One runs a pharmacy, the other is in marketing.
Our kids live out of state, and we want our grandchildren to know who we are. We make a big point of making time to see each other frequently, even though that requires a plane flight every time.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I used to be a hog farmer. My husband and I owned a hog farm for a period of time — we left the employer workplace, stayed home and raised pigs. My husband and I both grew up on the farm, so when were we first married, that's what we thought we were going to do. We bought our own place and had crops and livestock in partnership with his dad. That was the early '80s. Thirteen percent interest rates followed by the coldest winter, followed by the biggest drought we had seen in recent years. It just didn't work out. So we spent two years in that business and gave it up. It was because of that failure that I ended up with Cox.
What's your guilty pleasure? Reality TV. A few of those shows are ridiculous, and I love watching every minute of it. It is a completely different therapeutic view of the world.
Name one talent you wish you had. When I was a kid, I always dreamt of being an interpreter at the United Nations. Being really good at multiple languages and helping connect people and helping them communicate I think would be a really great skill to have.
By Arlena Sawyers