What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
Most of my career was spent in consumer packaged goods. I joined Bridgestone in hopes of transferring my experiences to a new sector while feeding my intuitive thirst for knowledge. My first role was an opportunity to lead marketing on Bandag, a retread brand that is anchored in efficiency, performance and sustainability.
I wrote my master's thesis on waste minimization and have a natural attraction for brands that share a sense of social responsibility. It has been rewarding to hear end-user testimonials on the performance, economic and environmental benefits of our brands and personally satisfying to now lead a channel of business that serves an industry that is critical to the success of our economy.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I consider growing visibility and career opportunities for junior associates in every company that I've worked to be one of my greatest career achievements. This has led to real business impact like reversing declining brands, inspiring integrated franchise networks to adopt new brand strategies and driving retail success.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
I passed on an opportunity to pursue an international assignment in Thailand early in my career. I was apprehensive about living abroad … as a single woman, with language barrier, away from my family, etc. Later, as I worked in a global facing role from New York City, I traveled more extensively and learned that cross-cultural exposure actually made me a better marketer as I became more adept at acquiring consumer insights and reflecting distinct cultural elements in marketing. And, oddly enough, I married a man from a different country who speaks English as his third language, and our families have become adept at using technology as a tool to maintain connectivity.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired when business success is fueled by a shared passion of the people managing that business.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
I've had a number of people along the way including senior leaders, peer mentors, direct reports, friends and family. Regardless of level, they all have played a key role in giving me candid feedback and encouragement to guide my career and build upon my strengths.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
It's from my mother: "You can't control what others do, but you can always control how you react." It is empowering, and I've applied this personally and professionally over the course of my life/career.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
My first priority as CEO would be to invest in building a sustainable culture. I embrace the popular saying, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast," and I am keenly aware that organization culture starts at the top. I once read about a CEO that intentionally built his executive team of people that would not be afraid to challenge him. That takes courage and I admire that. Similarly, I would build an organization that embraces a culture of diversity and accessible leadership. Diversity of backgrounds and experiences brings rich innovative thinking to address business challenges, and that is a competitive advantage.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
This has traditionally been perceived as a male-dominated industry. In my experience at Bridgestone and with our franchise and agency partners, I have been surprised by the presence of women at different levels of leadership and of men who serve as allies, mentors, coaches and sponsors. We can continue to benefit from the unique thinking and leadership skills of women to drive future success in this dynamic industry. For anyone considering a career in this industry, get ready for an exciting and purposeful business that is rich with talent and opportunity. You are welcome to learn and to lead.
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
Expose them to the opportunities that exist and provide them with examples of how people have been successful. Then give them the tools to achieve that success.
My school counselor encouraged me to pursue an engineering degree because of my interest in chemistry and strong math grades. I learned more about chemical engineering when my father suggested that I shadow his friend who worked at Rohm and Haas Chemical Co. I was intrigued by the problem solving nature of the work and the earning potential. I attended summer programs to hone technical skills and get hands-on practice with practical engineering projects. The discipline was a challenging one and I was fortunate to have wonderful professors, tutors and counselors in college to guide me along the journey. The technical background has proved to be an asset in opening career opportunities.