Honda of America Mfg
What attracted you to the auto industry? My main interest was to be an accountant. I had an internship in Toledo in purchasing, and someone recommended Bowling Green's purchasing program. It had a lot of accounting-based requirements in purchasing but also a lot of interface and negotiations with suppliers, so I looked into it, transferred there and got my degree in purchasing production.
I got a job at Lennox Industries, but I always had aspirations to work at Honda. Honda was known to have the best purchasing organization in manufacturing.
First automotive job: Business administrative coordinator at Honda in 1996
Big break: I took on a whole lot of projects and was actively involved in many pioneering efforts and was never shy about trying new concepts. So it's just been a compilation of multiple areas that have provided me with a great opportunity here.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? My job is very project-based. I was given a unique opportunity to lead the effort to fix a global supply-chain problem in 2005, which lasted most of the year. This supplier impacted most automakers in the industry; it was a serious situation, and I was afforded the opportunity to lead the project. It was a great opportunity to represent Honda globally and to work with the chain and ensure supply.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Personally, it would be my father. He was an individual that was in his career for 40 years for the same company. He had an incredible ability to work with people and understand the value of people's contributions.
In my career, there are two people at Honda that really helped me. The first was Larry Jutte, the former senior vice president. He gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my skills, and he put me in a position and gave me projects that allowed me to represent myself completely here at Honda and globally. The second influencer on the career side was Tom Lake (Honda North America's purchasing chief). He's always been candid about which career opportunities I should pursue.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We have a different level of technology now than we did when I was coming up. And that affords a lot of flexibility, which is the key that we need to embrace as an industry. I would have loved to have that when I was raising a family. I was pleased with a situation recently where we had a really smart, very capable female engineer, and while she was on maternity leave, we worked out a solution that made sure we retained her. We put her in a really strategic position that allowed her a lot of flexibility. It was great for her, and it was great for us. That's the kind of thing we need to do for women.
Tell us about your family. I'll tell you more about my father. He is not degreed; he entered the glass-making industry as an operator on the line. I come from a family of five kids, so it was challenging, but he was successful at his company and ended up working in multiple global markets and is considered a master craftsman and trained others in the trade.
Personally, I have two great kids. My son is a senior in high school, and my daughter is a sophomore.
What's your favorite weekend activity? I'm rarely home on weekends. Both my kids play ice hockey, so since Columbus is new to the world of ice hockey, we travel to most games. I spend a lot of time driving around the U.S. and Canada taking my kids to hockey events. I love it because I spend time with my kids.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I'm very involved in developing women's hockey in Columbus. I do everything involved with developing a team; it's almost like it's a company and my product is the girls. My daughter already has a college scholarship to play hockey, so now I'm focused on other girls that are smart and talented that deserve a similar opportunity.
By David Undercoffler