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Kathy Winter

Delphi Automotive

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Vice President of Software & Services, Automated Driving, Delphi Automotive
Palatine, Ill.
Age: 52
Education: B.S., industrial engineering, University of Illinois; MBA, University of Chicago

What attracted you to the auto industry? I had been at Motorola for 26 years and had worked in four divisions within the company when I came to Delphi in 2011. Delphi happened to be looking to increase its focus in advanced engineering around the connectivity of the car. It seemed like a natural next step in my career and a great opportunity to help our division speed the rate of innovation in automotive to match that of consumer electronics, where I had been for a long time.

First automotive job: In 2001, I became senior director of software development in Motorola's automotive division. My team worked on the telematics hardware and software solutions for stuff like GM's OnStar and BMW Assist.

Big break: In 2002, I was named VP and general manager of the Americas and Asia telematics group at Motorola. It was the first time they had a software person move into a general manager role as opposed to someone out of hardware engineering. There was growing recognition that the software content in all products, whether consumer electronics or automotive, was a bigger piece of the puzzle.

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Keeping up with the rapid pace of technology coming into cars these days.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My father. He's 79, and he's a techno genius. He worked as an engineer until he was 70, and he's still three steps ahead of everyone when it comes to laptops and phones.

He encouraged me to go into engineering when I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my career. At the time, the field was probably one woman out of 100 people, but he said: "You'll like this. This is where the future is going. Be confident."

When I was in high school, they told me: "You're good at math. You should be a math teacher." That's a great career and all, but my father encouraged me to go into the high-tech space, and I've found it really exciting.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think that how fast-paced the auto industry has become in the last five years is helping. We at Delphi just did a cross-country drive in an automated vehicle, and when we went to college campuses, guys and girls alike had heard about it.

Companies like us and Tesla and Google are creating a completely different view of the auto industry that's making the work more attractive to younger generations. Being active on university campuses, and having high-profile events beyond just car shows, will attract more women to the industry because it's more about high tech and not quite as traditional as it looked 10 years ago.

Tell us about your family. I have four boys. They're 17, 19, 21 and 23. Three of them are in engineering, and one of them is in high school, so he hasn't decided what he's doing yet. All of them are drivers, though I'm not sure how good they are.

I work in active safety, and that's especially near and dear to my heart because I have teenage boys, and I have aging parents.

What's your favorite weekend activity? Golf. My sons all golf. My husband golfs. I've learned to golf so I don't get left out. Now I'm good enough that I can keep up. And I also like to run.

Are you able to maintain friendships? I try even harder to stay connected to my friends because it's important to have a good balance. I spend a lot of time walking and running and golfing with my girlfriends, in addition to my sons.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I swam distance freestyle and breaststroke at NCAAs my freshman year at the University of Illinois. I had been swimming since I was 7. But balancing that with social life — because I'd joined a sorority — and with engineering being so time-consuming, I gave it up.

When and where was your last vacation? This year, I did spring break in Mexico with friends, but my favorite annual vacation is skiing in January in Winter Park, Colo., with extended family. We've done that every year since I got married in the '80s.

Name one talent you wish you had. I wish I was a little bit more artistic. I tend to be so math-focused, such an engineer. There are people who are outside-the-box creative, and I wish I could do that. And I have a huge appreciation for people who can do both: be an engineer and be creative.

By Gabe Nelson

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