Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it. Mary Barra
Mary Barra – The first female to become CEO of any major global automaker
Mary Barra is the current Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors, an icon of American Industry. She became the first female to become CEO of any major global automaker, and she has held the position since January 15, 2014. Prior to been announced as the CEO, Mary Barra served as Executive Vice President of the purchasing and supplying chain at GM.
A Little About Mary Barra’s Early Life
Mary Barra was born Christmas Eve 24th December 1961 in Royal Oak, Michigan . While growing up, her father, Ray Makela was a die maker at Pontiac, (part of GM) a firm where he worked in for 39 years. Mary Barra was educated in Waterford, Michigan. Having a love for cars, science and math, she joined the male dominated automobile industry at a relatively young age of 18. Mary Barra started out as an intern with the job of checking fender panels and inspecting hoods, using the income she got to pay through her college education. Barra obtained a Bachelor of science degree in engineering from the General Motors Institute. She was quickly recognized as someone with management potential, and GM sent her to Stanford Business School from where she earned a Master’s Degree in Business in 1990.
Mary Barra’s career path
After receiving her MBA with Stanford, Mary Barra worked through a series of highly visible positions within General Motors, including executive assistant to GM’s CEO in the mid ’90s and turning around a troubled Detroit plant. Mary Barra was appointed as the Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering in February 2008 and in July 2009, she advanced to become the Vice President of Global Human Resources, a position she had held and flourished until the early months of 2011.
In 2011 she took up the challenging position in product development. During her spell as the executive vice president of Global Product development, Barra had, as part of her responsibilities worked to reduce the number of automobile platforms that existed in General Motors. Prior to Barra’s appointment as CEO, General Motors had filed for bankruptcy. When in January 2014 Mary Barra was announced to take over as chief executive, she earned the title as the first female to head a major automobile firm. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Barra in her new position. In her first year as CEO, the company faced series of troubles and were forced to issue safety recalls that involved over 30 million cars. Barra had to face the senate to testify about the numerous recalls and deaths that were attributed to the ignition switch problem. It was around this same time that Barra and General motors also got under serious suspicion of paying for awards that would burnish Barra’s image again. Barra proved her resilience and unquenchable hunger to lead the company to success by the way she handled the situation at hand, creating new and sustainable policies that although were alternating to the company’s culture became a lasting solution to the problem.
Barra has proven overtime to be a strong woman, beating all odds and venturing into a field that is dominated by men. Despite the disappointments that she encountered on her way to the top, she still drew inspiration from her inner self, holding on against all odds and achieving huge success in what will eventually be a life inspiring career. Her life and overall career rise has been a case of study and a source of inspiration to thousands of women around the world who are financially disadvantaged and who are seeking to make a career in a field that’s not normally accustomed to women. Barra’s resilience, keenness to excel and die hard spirit endeared her through the various positions that she held across her career, and somehow she has excelled in all of them, leaving footprints that cannot be cleaned by the waves of history. She is still creating history, leading General Motors into breaking new grounds in the automobile industry and unsurprisingly, the company has been doing outstandingly well under her.
Her career path is a perfect example to women around the world who may feel threatened to pursue their dreams because stereotypes have defined them as not worthy of such positions. Indeed the life of Mary Barra is one to engineer such women into breaking all limits, standing against all odds and facing their storms to push for greatness. In 2016 Mary Barra was listed as one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes for the fifth time, a feat that would not have been ordinarily possible if she stayed back in her shell and kept her background as an excuse for not stepping out.
You can find more interesting interviews and stories on Mary Barra at https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/quotable-mary-barra