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Linda Hasenfratz

Linamar Corp.

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CEO, Linamar Corp.
Guelph, Ontario
Age: 49
Education: B.S., chemistry, University of Western Ontario; Executive MBA, Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario

What attracted you to the auto industry? I was always interested in technical things. Linamar was founded by my father, and I always had a close relationship with manufacturing and engineering. I've had coolant running through my veins. But I didn't assume I would work for this company. I set out after college to work in the pharmaceutical field to prove to myself that I could succeed without being handed a job by my dad. But in time, I realized that turning my back on the company my father had started would be missing out on a great opportunity. There was still so much growth waiting for us here.

First automotive job: I was a machine operator on the shop floor here in 1990.

Big break: Running my first plant. I moved around in a lot of different roles over the years. I worked in a few different plants. I was a materials manager at one time and had a job in the accounting department. In 1994, I was given the opportunity to be the operations manager for a new plant we were starting here in Guelph. It was good experience to create my own team and start from scratch and get a plant running.

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Getting through the recession of 2008 and 2009. It was an incredibly difficult time. When the industry bottomed out in 2009, it was just hard to get through that and come up with the plan to move forward and keep people motivated. It was hard to strike that balance between communicating the urgency to change things and not causing a panic that the ship was going down. We used a saying around here in those days: Tough times don't last, but tough teams do. That helped keep us focused. We had to cut costs to adapt to our whole new level of sales. We had to ratchet back on spending to conserve cash. And we had to move aggressively to grow, including buying other businesses.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? There have really been three people who influenced me. The first was my father, Frank Hasenfratz, who taught me every part of the business and was a wonderful teacher. The second would be Jim Jarrell, our president and COO. We've worked together for 25 years. I've worked for him and he's worked for me, and he has always been a visionary leader. Then finally, my husband. He's not in the business — he has his own business. But he has always kept me grounded and didn't let me get carried away as we grew and expanded the business. He's been a great sounding board.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? There are a lot more women in the business today than ever — in engineering, in purchasing, in the supply base. It must be 10 or 15 times what it was 20 years ago. So they're already here, and there are more coming. I think we need to talk more about the success of those who are here already.

Tell us about your family. I'm married and we have four children, aged 15 to 19. As of this fall, two of them are in university

Name one talent you wish you had. I wish I could speak other languages fluently. I can speak a little German and a little French. But it would be great to speak Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Italian fluently because we're growing so much globally.

By Lindsay Chappell

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