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Lara Harrington

Honda R&D Americas

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Chief Engineer, Automotive Development, Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio
Age: 51
Education: B.S., aeronautical engineering, Ohio State University

What attracted you to the auto industry? My dad isn't a professional mechanic, but he always loved to work around cars. So I spent a lot of time around vehicles; I loved fixing cars, loved working on them, loved working with my dad. I loved the smell.

First automotive job: Design engineer, body engineering, in charge of outer body structure of the 1994 Accord station wagon

Big break: Being the design leader for the 2003 Honda Pilot. That's a role where you're in charge of the body, interior, exterior, chassis, electrics systems, etc. You're responsible for the entire team of people and insuring the vehicle meets all the performance, safety, cost, design and quality targets. Basically you're in charge of everything on the design side of the development of the vehicle.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Probably my father.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? When you look at the data, you can see most women engineers are drawn to areas like medicine and biomedical engineering, and I think that's because there's more of a feeling of helping people; it's ingrained in those positions.

Why I got into the auto industry is because I've always been fascinated with cars and also the relationship people have with their cars; that emotional connection has always been interesting.

I think we can do a better job as an industry of highlighting that we can make a product that people love and connect with. If women understood this then they could relate to that aspect of that industry. It's not just hard and dry mechanics, we are making a product that we want to inspire joy in our customers.

Tell us about your family. I'm married. I have one daughter, who's in college and very career-oriented, very proud of the work I've done in this industry. My husband is a police officer.

What's your favorite weekend activity? I do a lot of biking and spend a lot of time with my family. I'm an avid road cyclist. So on Saturday and Sunday mornings I'm out riding early; that way you still have the whole day when you're done. I do about 80 to 100 miles a week.

Are you able to maintain friendships? Maintaining friendships is important to me, and I am fortunate that my closest friends share my love of travel. Last summer, my best friend from elementary school and I journeyed through the mountains of southern France on bicycles. The summer before that, I spent two weeks in Ireland, hopping between bed-and-breakfasts with my roommate from college.

What's your guilty pleasure? Chubby Hubby Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

By David Undercoffler

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