Toyota Motor North America
What attracted you to the auto industry? When Toyota announced the plant in Georgetown, that was a big buzz, but even though I was asked, I was not a part of the first group that went. What changed my mind three years later was that Toyota really believes in the community partnership and philanthropy. Living close to that facility and having friends and neighbors work there, they would tell me: "This is a different company to work for. They really respect the individuals. They really want to contribute to the community." That's basically why I started at Toyota, and now I've been here for almost 25 years. I think my morals and values are the same as the company's.
First automotive job: In 1991 at the Georgetown facility, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky. It was in information technology as a database administrator.
Big break: I'm a lifelong learner both professionally and personally, so one of the things that's kept me at Toyota is I like a challenge. For instance, getting the opportunity to rotate to HR. In the beginning I thought that was maybe not a good career choice, but I learned a lot. Each of the moves that I've taken throughout my career have given me the opportunity to learn new things and adapt to whatever the new business environment was.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? I was the vice president of HR at the manufacturing headquarters in 2008 and 2009 when we suffered through Lehman Shock. In addition, you'll remember we had the tsunami, which had a huge impact for us globally, and then the recalls. I'm not afraid to say that that was a very devastating event. They all happened one after another.
My role in HR was to ensure that we kept those 30,000 team members employed. I'm proud to work for a company that can say that we kept all 30,000 of those people employed. We took a shared approach, shared the burden from the executives all the way down to the team members.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My parents. I don't remember my parents saying "You can do what you want to do," but I don't ever remember them saying "You can't."
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Manufacturing still has a stigma of your grandfather's company 60 years ago when it was dirty and unsafe. We've got to get the message out that manufacturing as a whole and certainly automotive manufacturing is more about technology and robotics, and that it's very clean and very safe.
When it comes to automotive, we need to be more work-life balance friendly. I think companies are trying to do that. But the key thing is starting at an early age and encouraging young women to pursue mathematics, engineering, science or technology.
Tell us about your family. We have two sons; one is married with two kids, and the other is getting married next summer. One husband — I always say that to the Japanese, and they laugh because they think it's a North American thing.
What's your favorite weekend activity? Reading, and there are a lot of nice trails here in West Virginia. We enjoy taking the dogs out and walking and enjoying the wildlife.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I grew up showing horses competitively, and I was a nontraditional student. I did not go to college from high school. I actually started my manufacturing job to pay for the horses, a so-called hobby where I thought I would make my living. While I was working full time at the first manufacturing company I worked for, I actually went to school at night and on the weekends to get an associate's degree.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Condoleezza Rice.
What's your guilty pleasure? I love good food. I don't think there's a food that I've seen that I didn't like. That's probably the guilty part of it.
Name one talent you wish you had. I wish I was more charismatic. I'm truly an introvert so I have to work hard every single day in the role that I'm in.
By Ryan Beene