Of the more than 1,500 employees at the GM Lansing Grand River Assembly plant, 360 are female, and three (along with their many team members) are making a dramatic impact on the launch team for the 2014 Cadillac CTS. These three remarkable women may work in a traditionally male-dominated field, but it doesn’t affect their ability to influence, lead and take care of business. “It is all about how you deal with it. You have to be yourself,” said Shenetra Moses, General Assembly Launch Manager. “You have to know and be confident in your skills and know that you are qualified. Sometimes people feel like they have to prove a point, but the only thing you have to do is lead by example. Don’t assume just because they say you can’t, you can’t. Don’t allow that to keep you back, keep pushing further and show that you have what it takes.” Along with Moses, Jennifer Sykes, Quality Director, and Dana Richardson, Launch Core Team Member have put in a countless amount of time to ensure the quality, safety and construction of the final CTS not only meets, but exceeds industry standards and customer expectations. Each woman holds a crucial position on the launch team, and the trio works together to bring the CTS to life. “My goal is to make sure we have seamless, perfect launches. Honestly, we have a lot of activity and a lot of exciting things going on from an engineering aspect with how we build and assemble,” Moses said.“It is all about how we put it together, how it will work when you get it out on the road. It’s like Legos; you have to find the right fit. Will what we designed really work? Is what we designed feasible in real life? I think figuring that out is exciting. Our main goals are to make sure we have good quality cars and that we are meeting the expectation of our customers.” In Moses’ role as General Assembly Launch Manager, she is required to be involved with how the car is built and assembled. She aims to streamline the launch process and work with her team members to iron out any kinks. Richardson helps to identify these problems, works to find solutions and keep the process moving forward. “I am a Core Team Member, I am part of the team that will go to Warren (MI) to learn how to build whatever new car is coming to the plant. I do my best to become an expert in my area of responsibility. Once I learn how to build it, I help the engineers make design changes for things that won’t work or could work better,” Richardson said. Sykes ensures that as the team pushes forward, the end product is ready to be released to the public. “I recently transitioned to Quality Manager. As Quality Manager my overall responsibility is to ensure the quality of the cars as they leave the plant and to educate our team on design and quality standards,” said Sykes. Although the women’s roles within the organization vary greatly, they each agree that it is the people they work with and the fast pace of their jobs that makes every day more interesting than the last. “I think it is the excitement we see every day that keeps things interesting. You get to impact new products and see new things we have happening that you know will be worth the wait,” said Moses, “It is fun to push and push to make sure what we deliver is the best it can be. I want drivers to know that what they are driving is what I would want to drive and that what they love about the car is what we love about it too.” Sykes agrees the pace of her every day is exciting (she even carries a backpack because she is always on the move) but she attributes her happiness at work to the people she interacts with. “I think it is the people side of things I like the most,” Sykes said. “There are so many people, tons of teams and the interaction around here is fun. I like to talk to people, communicate, acknowledge and recognize people. It is a team sport.” The fast pace may be exciting, but it also poses a unique set of challenges to the constantly moving launch team. Problems have to be addressed and solved within a matter of hours, even minutes to keep the line moving. “The problem solving end of it … sometimes it can be high pressure and in early builds no one knows what to do and they are looking at you and you have to give them answers right then,” Richardson said. Sykes concurred. “Not being able to fix things fast enough can be our biggest challenge. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than we would like. There are things that are just beyond our control. It’s the surprises that take longer than we would like them to.” However, what some may assume would be one of the women’s biggest challenge hardly affects the motivated trio. Working in what is perceived as a “man’s world” doesn’t bother the three driven women. Some hardly notice at all while others see it as an opportunity to learn. “I would have to say that there is some truth to it being a man’s world,” said Richardson. “There are 10 people on the core team and I am the only woman, but I guess I really don’t think about it that way.” Sykes added,“I think it can be a benefit. They have some skill sets that traditionally females don’t have and you can learn from that. But I also feel that I teach them too. I teach them focus and how to multitask. Sometimes men have better command skills that females struggle with. When I was starting I was quiet and timid and I think from being around them so much I am not anymore, I am more comfortable and confident in my approach.” The three women have all excelled in their fields and have not let the majority male influence derail their drive and ambition. “Don’t sit back in the room, sit up at the table, take it in and be part of the team,” said Sykes “Don’t think too much about it, be yourself, be positive and learn every day. Take the opportunity to learn something. Strong skills are great, but not everyone is the perfect package so try to emulate and pick up knowledge and skills from other people.” Sykes, Richardson and Moses share many viewpoints, a dedication to their careers and a passion for providing the best product possible, but where they differ is on how they view success. “I think success is defined personally. Yours and mine are different,” said Sykes “To me being satisfied with everything you have is enough. It’s not money or a title, it is when you feel like you have done it all and you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.” Richardson has a different view. “Success to me getting what I want out of a job and feeling like I am contributing,” she said. “I like feeling like I am part of a solution.” Moses’ take — “I think that success is coupled with fear and accomplishment. I say that because I had to push through the fear to get to where I am. You have to push through the fear in order be successful, the accomplishments are the rewards to facing your fears.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.