Carolin Gleichmann, 44
Vice president human resources, Hilite International
Born: Bochum, Germany
Languages: German, English
Education: Studied law at Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Right before starting university I assembled water pumps at Opel's factory in Bochum, Germany. And, during an external management training course I was hired by Johnson Controls to work as a human resources payroll specialist at their headquarters in Burscheid, Germany. It was a natural transition because I have always been interested and excited by car design, technology and engineering. I was able to combine my theoretical knowledge from my studies with my passion for cars and my desire to work closely with people.
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest professional achievement is the successful development and deployment of a worldwide human resources business partner concept at one of my former employers. From that point, HR became recognized as an important part of the business, and today it remains the main contact for all relevant operational and strategic questions.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I have always been inspired by the Confucius quote, "A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake." I still expect a lot from myself, but always less from others. I guess this trait mirrors who I am. Unfortunately, it seems that those around me feel they need to follow suit and that can be overwhelming for them.
What is your current challenge at work?
The main challenge is restructuring our HR management to be able to master the future challenges facing the industry. To achieve this, we are striving to integrate HR management at all of our locations. We are devising a companywide strategy and creating homogeneous standards and processes to strengthen our international focus. Part of that includes recruiting executives who are willing to travel and/or relocate to international subsidiaries and then helping them make a smooth transition into the different locations. It's all about getting the right people in the right places.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
How complex and challenging it is, especially when you consider that the average car is made up of more than 15,000 components that offer safety, luxury, state-of-the-art technology and low emissions. There is amazing growth potential as the industry becomes more globalized. A key challenge today is being able to work with people from different countries with different cultures while communicating in different languages. This fascinates me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Always believe in yourself and trust what you can do.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
To have a career within the automotive industry you need passion, a good education, a global view and an open mind.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would start by getting to know the employees and the environment they work in to best understand the company culture. This would include visiting the different departments to hear their ideas, expectations and concerns. Communication and listening to people are key.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
A global HR executive management position.
What do you do to relax?
I like to spend my time with my husband and dogs either at home or outdoors. It gives me the chance to discuss what's on my mind or to just enjoy the environment. I also like to read, listen to music and get together with our friends.
BMW 5-series Touring.
Aug. 2015-present: Vice president human resources, Hilite International, Marktheidenfeld, Germany
2012-2015: Division HR senior manager steering wheel systems global, TRW Automotive Safety Systems, Aschaffenburg, Germany
2009-2012: HR manager, Aschaffenburg plant and HR business partner steering wheel systems global, TRW Automotive Safety Systems, Aschaffenburg
2008-2009: Group HR manager engineering Europe, Johnson Controls, Burscheid, Germany
2006–2007: HR manager engineering Europe, Johnson Controls, Burscheid
2003–2005: HR professional, Johnson Controls, Burscheid
1999–2003: HR payroll specialist, Johnson Controls, Burscheid