What attracted you to the auto industry? When I was 8, my cousin came home with a 1971 Mach 1. The sound of that engine is music to my ears. In fact, my favorite song today is a nice V-8 engine.
First automotive job: In February 1986, I was hired at Ford Motor Co. in the plastics division. I was an r&d engineer working with plastic trunk liners.
Big break: In the auto industry, it was being hired by Ford. Then it was starting out and becoming an owner. My mentor at Ford said they would support me and gave me the flexibility to start out and if I failed, I could go back. But I never looked back.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Access to capital.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Maryann Keller. She was the go-to woman in the automotive industry. Men would go to her for opinions and I thought that was great. I wanted to be the next Maryann Keller.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think you should bring more girls to understand the totality of industry. It is also fashion — it's more than math and science. We need them to understand the full aspect of the car industry, which includes things like color or design studies, interiors and even how you hear your music. It's not just grit and dirt.
Tell us about your family. I grew up in North Carolina as the only girl with four brothers. My grandparents were tobacco farmers and I worked on the family farm every summer until I graduated from college. I learned from them working hard, working as a team and ownership. When I graduated, I moved to join Ford and my fiance, who is an engineer, followed me here.
I have been married 23 years and we have one daughter who is 9. She is learning math and science with great enthusiasm and is also learning about cars. She can tell you the model of the car by just looking at the back.
What's your favorite weekend activity? Laying back and watching football — especially college football. I am a Michigan and Alabama fan.
What keeps you up at night? Making sure my employees have the means to feed their families. Also customer retention and the next stage of growth.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? My great-grandmother on my mother's side. She was a leading force in land ownership at a time when blacks and Native Americans didn't own land. She was able to own land and obtain more land.
When and where was your last vacation? On Aug. 22, my daughter and I went to Chicago to the American Girl store. I had a great time there.
By PJ Eichten