2018 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
Vice President, Customer Business Unit • Faurecia Automotive Seating, Auburn Hills
Employees: 110,000 • Revenue: $23.6B
Coming from a very small town in Mexico, at the age of 15 Ana Almeida moved to Chihuahua in the northern part of the country to attend high school, then college. Unlike most women in her hometown, she saw a future in engineering and graduated from the Instituto Technologico de Chihuahua II in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering.
From there, she landed a job as an engineer on the factory floor at a supplier plant in Mexico operated by Southfield-based Lear Corp. “At that time,” she says, “I did not speak any English, so I decided pretty quickly that I had to learn English fast. And I did.”
A short while later, she was transferred to Baltimore, where she was tasked with handling customer liaison issues and problem-solving. That was where she met her husband, Bret, who also worked for Lear. They got married, she became a citizen, and she came to the U.S. permanently
“I couldn’t work for six months because I didn’t have the visa processed, but I got certified as a quality engineer, to increase my chances of finding a good job, and became a quality manager after that. American Specialty Cars (ASC Corp. in Southgate) hired me as a senior quality engineer in 2001. I was assigned to a joint venture project that wasn’t going well, so I decided I should find another job.”
That led her to Brose North America in Auburn Hills, where she started as a quality engineer and found herself promoted just a year later. “I think virtually every job I’ve had, I was already doing the job before I actually got it,” she says.
In 2011, she earned an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, and in 2014 she was named global director for Brose’s Ford Customer Business Unit (CBU). Over a five-year period at Brose, she led the growth of a single account to $140 million from $20 million in annual revenue.
Last November, she decided to accept a job at Faurecia North America in Auburn Hills as vice president of its Ford CBU, and in six months she assumed leadership of the company’s GM, Ford, and FCA CBUs. As the only female vice president in a customer-facing role within Faurecia North America, she manages over $1 billion in annual sales to GM, Ford, and FCA.
She says her leadership style is very results-oriented. “I am a problem-solver, with courage to make decisions and take responsibility for the outcome of my teams’ work,” she says. “My teams might consider me tough, but they also know I am very loyal to them. And I don’t ask of others what I am not willing to do myself. As a leader, I believe that having high expectations and holding people accountable nurtures a team’s motivation.”
Almeida’s advice to women in business is mostly the same as it is for men: “To advance in your career, you need to create value for your organization,” she says. “There are no shortcuts that will work in the long term. You need to take care of your education, and continued learning, to develop the necessary skills and competencies.
“You need to keep your eyes open in the workplace, understand the goals and the rules of the environment, and keep in mind that the rules, at times, may be different for women. There is no need to pretend we are men; we are not. We can be better in some ways, so bring your skills to the table and create value.” — Gary Witzenburg