Hella Corporate Center USA
What attracted you to the auto industry? Having grown up in the Detroit area and having had a father and grandparents who worked in the auto industry, it was kind of a natural. My grandmother and grandfather both worked on the line: one at Ford and one at GM. That was my mother's side. My dad worked for Ford 32 years in management.
First automotive job: My summer internship at Ford in 1988. I worked in the purchasing department.
Big break: The internship led to getting a full-time job offer the following year when I graduated from Michigan State. That was the first big step into a full-time job. Mine wasn't one big break; there was no defining moment that made my career.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Balancing my roles as a mom and a wife with that of a professional — a manager, a director, a VP. That was always a constant challenge.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? A strong leader at Ford named Stormy Hicks. He has since retired. He is an ex-Naval officer that served in the Vietnam War before going to Cornell for his MBA and then joining Ford. He had an incredibly successful career at Ford and lived all over the world.
He was humble and honest about what his strengths were and what they weren't and how to compensate by surrounding himself with people he valued, respected, could motivate to make a team. He is someone I've respected and learned from. I still stay in touch with him.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? A lot of the younger generation saw what happened in 2008 through 2010, and it put fear in them about the recessional cycles that we have. But if we promote the opposite side, the success stories that go with automotive and get younger people into internships and get them some exposure to people who can be positive influences, I think you can get more interest.
Tell us about your family. I have a wonderful husband who has been in automotive for 31 years. He's a wonderful father and an engineer by degree. My son, Alec, is 23 and he's in purchasing at Ford, and my daughter, Lauren, is 21. She's a senior at Michigan State University.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I'm embarrassed to say I absolutely love trashy, reality TV, the reality housewives on Bravo. After a long day at work, it's mindless. I can watch somebody else's drama and laugh.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Warren Buffett. I look at this guy and he's 85 years old and the energy and the interest that he still has in his career and his business — whatever this guy is taking, I want some.
By Arlena Sawyers