What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
I initially was drawn to the automotive sector as a large industry with lots of opportunities to develop. I also was intrigued by the lack of women in most fields. I saw a challenge and an opportunity to learn, but also to open minds. I've remained in the rubber industry because of the way people and relationships are valued. Our former worldwide head of Continental Tire used to say that the "tire business is people business," and I cannot agree more, especially within Conti. This industry is not stagnant either, there are many innovations under development. Numerous projects exist covering new services, new technologies and new sustainable solutions. It's exciting to be a part of this.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Building a diverse and multicultural team across the Americas that functions as a unit and drives regional strategy. One of our core values at Continental is "For One Another" and together, our purchasing team has built a solid foundation of sharing, competing, supporting and learning from each other. This sense of team has made us a formidable solution to challenges as well as nurtured a creative spirit to continually seek improvement. The impact that each team member has on strategy, market and bottom line is our inspiration.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
Not always adequately managing all stakeholder expectations. I've learned it's best to identify the key stakeholders and influencers for any initiative and make sure to align with them individually on what to realistically expect or what is expected of them. It's humbling to see how slow something can move or even completely stall without this consideration and care upfront.
Who or what inspires you?
My team inspires me, every day. Their ingenuity in recognizing and creating opportunities, their passion to do the right thing, their willingness to support, learn from and teach each other, their adaptability to new challenges with a great spirit are all inspiring and make me want to do better for them.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
I once had a CEO who used to walk through the office, meet new employees who did not know him and introduce himself by name only followed by "I work here, too." He had a real open door, always interacted with employees, listened and more importantly, acted on team inputs. He was decisive, but always made us feel empowered and valued. I try to embody that in my leadership style.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Don't wait for someone to ask or invite you—if you want something, go out and get it. You create your opportunities. If you're unsuccessful, at least you tried and you'll be better prepared the next time.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Talk to board members, the leadership team and their teams to formulate first impressions as a basis for strategic direction, which would need to be jointly evaluated and crafted.
Create shared accountability among businesses, functions and leadership.
Emphasize to employees, customers and suppliers that they are valued.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
I often tell people that I left the rubber industry once but couldn't stay away. I joke that I was pulled right back in like the Hotel California—"you can check out any time you like but you can never leave." There's truly a unique way of doing business, appearing a bit conventional at times but that's why fresh, new ideas and talent are so welcome. It's an industry where a handshake means something and that's pretty special in today's world. It can seem slow moving, but once you know how to influence and drive direction and outcomes, it is very rewarding. To top it off, there's a great deal of impact we can yet have on sustainable technologies and solutions.
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
More visible, active female role models talking about the industry and highlighting their impacts.
Champions who encourage them to bring their perspective on business and vision.
Not only respecting but valuing our differences.