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Michele Lieber

Ally Financial

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Chief Public Policy Officer, Ally Financial

Age: 47

Education: B.A., English literature and politics, Brandeis University; J.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Law

What attracted you to the auto industry? It was a dynamic industry. I joined General Motors at a critical time. It was an exciting opportunity to be the first ever public policy person in Washington focused exclusively on financial services issues. I worked in all financial services prior to General Motors.

First automotive job: Director of government relations financial services at General Motors in 2003

Big break: I was asked to focus exclusively on GMAC and help with a significant challenge, which turned into a great opportunity to be working for GMAC at a critical time. We were going through a change of control by the ownership of GMAC. I was asked to work with the regulatory community to help facilitate that. It was a difficult assignment, but we ended up being successful.

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Working through the auto industry transformation time — working with members of Congress and their staff to explain the role that Ally played through that transformation and the important role of auto finance to auto dealers, manufacturers, customers and others in the industry, during the industry's recovery.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? I've had some major mentors. First when I finished law school, I had worked for somebody who had served in the Johnson administration. He did not have a really formal education, but he had been an incredibly successful leader in the financial services industry. He taught me everything he knew while still running a part of a major business.

And then I had a mentor at General Motors — Ken Cole (former vice president of government relations and public policy). He was instrumental in the bailout negotiated between the Obama administration and GM in 2009 and helped me take my skills to the next level.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We have to create more of an environment where women feel this is the right career. I'm passionate about what I do, and I'm lucky because what I do is also part my hobby, which is the political environment. So this has been a natural fit for me. I think for other women, finding ways to have a job that is actually something they're passionate about will be incredibly helpful. So helping to mentor people in the younger stages of their career to give them an opportunity to understand what their career could be and taking the more mundane tasks away to give them some more exciting opportunities will be important.

Tell us about your family. I grew up in a very driven family. Both my parents are lawyers. My sister is a federal prosecutor. My brother is a Hollywood screenwriter. We're all doing different things, but we've all been passionate about everything that we do. We've all been quite successful in different ways. I joke that I only went to law school to understand dinner.

What's your favorite weekend activity? Going and exploring something new, going to a place where I can hike or spend time outdoors.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I make beaded necklaces and I make them only to wear myself. Over the years, I've looked for certain things, and I was never particularly happy with things that I found. So I created some designs just for myself and I wear them proudly. I don't tell anybody that I made them.

By Hannah Lutz

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