2017 Powered by Women
From reader nominations, DBusiness selected eight professional women who are driving growth in Michigan, the nation, and the world.
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Terri Harwood // Katie Bowman Coleman // Amy B. Robinson // Monica Martinez
Lilly Epstein Stotland // Christine Sitek // Tricia Ruby // Sara Blackmer
COO • General Motors Co., GM Global
Connected Customer Experience, Detroit
Employees: 225,000 • Revenue: $166.4B
Born and raised in metro Detroit, Christine Sitek grew up surrounded by family and friends who worked in the automotive industry. Her grandfather was an electrician for Fisher Body, her father was a wood model-maker, and she learned to work on cars early in life out of necessity. “I could never afford a car that really worked,” she laughs.
Following high school, she pursued a teaching degree at Central Michigan University, but two years later she had a change of heart. “They were laying off teachers during a downturn in the early 1980s,” she recalls, “and I was a little bored, so I thought that might not be the right thing for me. I went back to family and friends and got some good advice that maybe I should switch gears and go for a business degree in the supply chain management program at Michigan State University.”
After completing her degree, Sitek worked as a college graduate in training at GM’s Pontiac Truck headquarters in 1989, then as a material control analyst for GM Global Purchasing and Supply Chain Management. Along the way, she earned her MBA at the University of Detroit Mercy while working full time, and advanced through positions of increasing responsibility up to executive director for indirect, machinery, and equipment. She was also leading GM’s supplier diversity Initiatives.
“I spent the first 21 years of my career in global purchasing and supply chain,” she says, “moving through a lot of different jobs and leadership positions. Then I was lucky to be asked to take a cross-functional assignment in manufacturing engineering. I thought they had called the wrong person, since I’m not an engineer and had never worked in a plant. They said they were interested in getting a different leadership style and approach into that position, and (wanted) a fresh set of eyes to support the transformation.”
Moving over in 2010 to lead program management and launch activities was almost like leaving the company. “It was that different,” she says. “I didn’t know anybody, didn’t know the culture, didn’t know the work. It was an extreme test of adaptability, learning ability, managerial courage, and my own confidence to make that career change.”
Sitek’s responsibilities included equipment installation and timing for GM’s new vehicle launches around the globe.
“Then GM challenged me again: ‘Maybe you should run some plants and get to know our global manufacturing system, the operational side of the business, and how we execute vehicle programs from the plant floor perspective,’” she says. So in 2012, Sitek took on responsibility for 14 U.S. manufacturing sites as well as leading manufacturing quality. From there, she moved to her current position as COO with GM’s Global Connected Customer Experience team, where she leads the OnStar in-vehicle communications platform.
Sitek says her leadership style “is heavily rooted in inclusion in terms of my ability to pull people together, and the importance of building strong relationships to get things done. Once you have that, you’ll have the ability to move fast and bring people with you to drive change in a goal-oriented organization.”
Sitek is big on mentorship, and says she’s had many mentors. “I was very fortunate. I probably couldn’t name all the people I considered mentors, because I took advice and guidance from multiple people in multiple positions — bosses, peers, people who had a job before me. I never had a consistent mentoring relationship, but I leveraged people in all different positions for the advice and guidance I needed.”
Sitek’s advice to women in business is straightforward: “Be confident, take risks, hold your head high, and don’t count yourself out before you’ve started. More than men, women tend to discount their abilities and wear their confidence on their sleeves. I encourage them to take that leap, get in the ring, and sit at the table — and the demonstration of what they can do will come. I think the opportunities are fantastic, more than ever, but what impacts women’s ability to seek them and be successful is that they sometimes don’t give themselves the chance to do so. I advise them to be confident, put themselves forward, and take the risks to be there.” — Gary Witzenburg