What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
I interviewed on campus with several chemical companies. My desire was to go into business with my technical degree. I had worked summers in a research lab in Toledo while going to OSU and found out I was not cut out for R&D. So this gave me the further desire to do sales and marketing. Goodyear at the time in 1978, was hiring technically degree'd college graduates to go into their sales and marketing program in the chemical division. I accepted a job with them and started working in the chemical division. From there I had many interesting and challenging assignments in the field, in corporate, in purchasing and then back in sales and marketing. I love the rubber industry; we have a lot of the same people that move to different companies and they are really good and smart people. It is almost a family of sorts. Rubber has so many different characteristics and is used in many different products and industries, which makes it very versatile. I have always loved this. I believe once a "rubber person" always a "rubber person"
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I have been a mentor to many men and women throughout my career. This has been very satisfying to help them navigate their way. When I started, it was totally all men and now we have a mix of men of women, which makes for a much richer business environment as we think and act differently. I was fortunate to have some good men mentor me and help me in my career as I was coming up at a time where there were very few women and this added an extra challenge besides the job.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
When I was in my 30s, I think that my desire to succeed and grow was too self-centered and too important, and it was my primary focus. When I ran into a bad manager during my career, I was not equipped or balanced enough to handle the fallout and almost did not honestly survive. Fortunately, I was lucky to have other managers and mentors go to bat for me, and help me to move forward. After that awful experience, I was able to get better balance and perspective on my career and life and also able to help others who were going through similar issues. As horrible as it was, it was a great learning experience, now I am a much better manager and leader to my team with these life lessons.
Who or what inspires you?
People who are totally themselves and not afraid to admit they are wrong, willing to listen and take chances. None of us know all the answers and the people that can reach out and seek help/knowledge/ideas/creativity are the best ones to lead and work with others. In these very challenging days of things changing, business models up-ended, we need to rethink how we will do things for the future to survive and flourish.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
There are many and I feel very blessed. I honestly cannot name them all, but will highlight some names. Stan Gault when I was at Goodyear really helped me, as did a number of other leaders and managers I had. Bill Ziegler, who was a retiree of Goodyear and taught at the University of Akron was a huge supporter in the early days at Goodyear. Jonathan Cocco and Gary Schoeff at Veyance. Christian Noell and Matthias Schoenberg really helped me with learning Conti, and my current manager, Charles Bavoux, believed in me from the beginning at Conti and gave me the chance at the global role.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There are a few pieces that work well. First, don't take yourself too seriously; it is not all about you. Secondly, keep your options open and focus on giving yourself flexibility. For example, having a technical degree, you can stay technical, go into teaching, research, or sales and marketing. Kindness toward others helps in everything you do. It helps when meeting new people in different countries, when you cannot understand each other, teaching and coaching your people, learning from your mistakes, etc. Staying positive, it is harder to do these days, but it is critical if you want to keep the morale going and have people listen to your point of view.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I think that I would look at how we are communicating with our people and what message is being received. Are we being honest, positive but realistic, building a message where people can get on board and do their best? If not, we are going to lose our best people and we cannot afford to do that.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
Go for it! You will love it.
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
We need a critical mass of women to make a difference. Potential candidates need to see other women who are doing well, happy and making a difference. If they see the possibilities of what can be, and the options and flexibility they can have, it makes sense.