What attracted you to the auto industry? My father was an engineer at General Motors, so I knew all about cars. When I was growing up, I had an awareness of the automotive community. I wanted to work for GM or one of the other car companies.
First automotive job: My first job out of college was at Lear as a seating engineer for the Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird. I was 21. I was terrified. I thought: "What are they going to do when they find out I have no idea what I'm doing?"
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? I was put in charge of the Chevy Volt program [in 2010]. Lear was the integrator [of the vehicle's electrical system]. It was extremely stressful. Folks at GM and Lear worked through the nights and on weekends, and they skipped vacations. People were excited to be part of it, but not everything was perfect, and it was a little bit scary.
Big break: [The Chevy Volt project] was my big break. It gave me a lot of exposure. Our board of directors wanted to know about it all the time. It was also a personal turning point for me. A lot of us are always thinking about what we need. [The Volt] made me think about what I needed to do for my team.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Ray Scott [president of Lear's seat division]. A mentor is somebody who takes a chance on you. Whenever there was anything that needed to be created, fixed or improved, he was not afraid to give me those assignments.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think we just need to market the industry better. It's a terrific consumer products industry. The design, the marketing, the advertising, the brand management, the sales — not to mention global finance. I also think there is a dated view of assembly plants. They are clean, safe facilities, but if you didn't grow up in Detroit, you don't know what it means.
Tell us about your family. I have two kids, a 10-year-old son in fifth grade and an 8-year-old daughter. My husband had a 26-year career as a sales director. When our oldest child was 5, my husband retired, and he stays home with our kids.
What's your favorite weekend activity? I like to spend a quiet Sunday morning with The New York Times and a Starbucks, sitting on the couch with my husband, reading. At night, we sit on the deck at our house — or at a friend's house — in front of a fire with a glass of wine, enjoying the company of friends and family.
By David Sedgwick