European Leading Women
Name: Sue Slaughter
Title: Chief operating officer
Company: Getrag Ford Transmissions
Location: Cologne, Germany
Age: 47
Family: Single
Born: Essex, England
Nationality: British
Languages: English, some German
Education: Bachelor's degree (with honors) in business studies from the University of East London, London, England; qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply

Sue Slaughter

What attracted you to the auto industry?

I stumbled into the industry at age 18 without any long-term expectation, but when I started looking for a career that would allow me to continue my education and learning, it was clear that I made the right choice. The diversity of work and the physical relationship with the products is second to none. That made working in this field very attractive to me.

First automotive job:

I started as a business apprentice in supply with Ford as an undergraduate in 1987. My first job was at Ford’s plant in Dagenham, England, in release and follow-up. 

What was your big break?

It was more of a gradual development. Although, I got a little more notice during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 because of the way I managed a few key supplier relationships.

What is the major challenge you have faced in your career?

The biggest challenges are probably the constraints you put on yourself. Also, I really enjoy being challenged and having to adapt to different situations. I think that is what makes our industry so fascinating. There are always challenges but it is how you react to to them and overcome them that is important. 

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by some strong leaders both at Ford and while working with the supply base. But, if I had to say one person, it would be my mother. She is a very strong woman who had a full-time career while raising three children with my father. She attained the highest level she could in her chosen path of nursing. She taught us to be independent, strong-willed and to do our best no matter what we did.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?

What excites me about the industry is the variety of roles and activities we have to manage. The industry does a poor job of advertising how high tech and leading edge we are in some areas. There are opportunities in so many different fields and those roles are continuously evolving as we adapt to keep pace with fast-changing global trends.   

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

Since I have been in Germany I’ve really enjoyed visiting new towns and villages. When I am in the UK, I typically catch up with my friends and family over a nice meal.

What keeps you awake at night?

The political unrest globally at the moment and in particular for me as a Brit, the aftermath of the Brexit.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I am double jointed.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

My dad. He passed away recently and I would love to have a chat with him.

If I had it to do all over again, I would …

I would get a degree in engineering. I’m not sure if it would have changed my career path, but I love the mechanics of how things work – or don’t -- when there is a quality issue. Having an engineering background is such a benefit in our industry.

When and where was your last vacation?

In March I went skiing in France. 

Name one talent you wish you had.

I would love to play a musical instrument well.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Never be afraid to ask a question to clarify and learn more, no matter how simple it may appear to be.

What advice would you give your child?

Whatever you do do it with passion, to the best of your ability and make sure you enjoy it.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

I would love to name something sporty, but honestly I have to say something functional and incredibly versatile such as a Ford Kuga or Focus wagon. 

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