What drew you to the auto industry? I had no choice. My father was a purchasing agent for General Motors and he quit in 1984 and started his own business. Most kids got to go to summer camp. I got ripped out of bed at 6 a.m. and I got to go to work with my parents in the summer. I grew up working in the industry for my parents.
First automotive job: I think they started paying me when I was 16 years old in 1990. I started running a second shift after cheerleading practice, assembling cardboard boxes for big bumper systems. It was my dad’s company, U.S. Auto Parts.
Big break: My father had faith in me and he promoted me to director of operations in 1998.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Just recently, with all of the changes in the tariffs. Our current administration and all the policy changes have been a huge roadblock and a major challenge to our business.
You’ve been in the industry 30 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? I think that the industry has definitely evolved and become more inclusive. The drive for diversity in the industry is very important. It dates back to when the Detroit 3 were pushing for the diverse spend and putting minority spend programs in place and WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) programs in place. I think that we have a long ways to go, but I think that’s been a huge change in the industry. I’ve been in the industry for so long that I’ve seen it evolve. I think that’s been a huge step up in helping this industry.
What work achievement are you most proud of? I think one of the biggest victories that I had was in 2018 when I went in front of the Trade Council in Washington, D.C., and testified and actually won our ask to have one of our HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) codes removed from the original Section 301 tariffs. That was a huge achievement for us as a small company in Michigan to take it all the way to Washington. I’m very proud of the work that my team did. We were featured on CNN, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal. We had a lot of traction around us and a lot of support.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? I wish I would have started traveling earlier. My business is global and it took a while for me to get into traveling to really grow it.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think that we need to start younger. I really think that we need to get kids interested, girls and boys, of any age, at a much younger level. When you get kids in high school, it’s almost too late. You need to get into middle school and elementary and show them how cool the industry is. When you think of the automotive industry, so many people think of middle-aged white dudes carrying a lunchbox every day going to assemble cars. That’s not what it’s about. This industry is just really cutting edge when it comes to technology and all the opportunities that are out there.
What’s the best part of your day? It sounds cheesy, but the best part of my day is waking up to new opportunities every day. I’m an extremely positive person, so when I wake up in the morning, I wake up and I tell myself, “All right, let’s get after it.” That’s really just appreciating the fact that I can wake up every day and have an opportunity to do something I haven’t done the day before.
Tell us about your family. I have three beautiful children. I have a son that’s 10. My daughter is 11 and I’ve got another daughter that’s 15. My husband is an amazing, supportive husband. I’m very, very fortunate. I’ve got to grow this business and run around the world, and when our children were younger, he was a full-time stay-at-home dad. He’s a retired professional boxer. He really took that role on and made a lot of sacrifices to stay home and raise our kids, which is amazing. Just recently, there was a growth opportunity here and I really just needed somebody kind of last minute to fill in. And so he took on the role as my floor supervisor here which was fantastic. He promised to give me at least one more year until he turns 50, working on the floor doing a floor supervisory role. He’s been an amazing addition to the team here. It’s been great.