European Leading Women
Name: Judith Richardson
Title: Vice president purchasing
Company: Nissan Europe
Location: Cranfield, England
Age: 47
Family: Husband, Bill; sons, Sam, 8, Theo, 6
Born: Tywyn, Wales
Nationality: British
Languages: English, Spanish, basic French
Education: Bachelor's degree (with honors) in geography, University of Manchester, Manchester, England

Judith Richardson

What attracted you to the auto industry?

I was not focused on automotive as a career in particular. I was more looking toward manufacturing. I can clearly understand the value created when you make a product for a customer and I find the process from initial design to the finished vehicle and then on to launch so interesting.

First automotive job:

After leaving university, I joined a company manufacturing wiring harnesses for the new Toyota factory in Derbyshire, England. I was in the purchasing department with responsibility to develop the localization plan for the component parts, something that is a key part of my role today too.

What was your big break?

Six years after joining Nissan when I was based at the plant in Sunderland, England, I was given the opportunity to work overseas in our Barcelona factory on a foreign service assignment within the purchasing division. This was during the very early days of the Renault-Nissan alliance – a time of incredible change for Nissan with the start of Nissan’s revival plan. It certainly changed me, my view of the company and gave me a far broader, international view of the business and new challenges.

What major challenge have you faced in your career?

Many years ago I worked hard for about one year on a project, taking it from the development stage all the way to its completion. But it was rejected by the board. It was very tough to pick up and motivate the team after a year of work came to nothing. However, from that decision the Nissan Qashqai was created.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

My family.

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

We have to communicate the incredibly diverse opportunities that exist in the industry. It’s not all about cars. Especially now as we are in a phase of rapid change driven by consumer behaviors, product personalization, technology, connectivity, urbanization, environmental pressures and even the way we manufacture the vehicles.  There are so many different aspects to the auto industry that can offer exciting and fulfilling career paths to anyone open to the challenges.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

Spending time with my family, walking the dog, cooking meals for a house full of friends and enjoying the laughter.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing!

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

My grandfather, who died when I was 15. He spent some of his childhood in Malta and then worked overseas in Singapore and Malaysia building dams and other civil engineering projects. I often wonder if my love of travel and making things comes from him? My father is also an engineer so maybe it is in the blood.

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

Do the same. I have had such an interesting career with Nissan, working in parts of the world such as Izhevsk and St. Petersburg in Russia. I never imagined this would be possible when I was growing up in rural Wales before the fall of the Berlin wall. Of course, I can’t forget the opportunities I had to visit countries such as India, Brazil, and the many months of working in Japan.

When and where was your last vacation?

This summer on the west coast of Wales in the village where I grew up. When the weather is good it is a wonderful part of the world with open spaces, sandy beaches and mountains. I love watching my children play on the same beach and streams where I did as a child.

Name one talent you wish you had.

To be able to fly so I would have less time waiting at airports.

Best advice you ever received?

Never be afraid to employ someone in your team who is better than you.

What advice would you give your child?

To laugh. The world is a much better place if you can find the fun in everyday life.

If you were a car, what would you be?

A Nissan Qashqai. It’s equally at home when traveling in a city environment as on tough terrain with obstacles to tackle.

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