Stephane Alber, 45
Regional Operations Director Europe, Valeo Wiper Systems
Family:Wife, Marie; sons, Arthur, 11, Alexandre, 8
Born: Hagenau, France
Languages: French, German, English
Education: Master's degree in engineering, Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Arts et Metiers (now called Arts et Metiers ParisTech), Paris, France
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I have always been passionate about cars, which is why I was looking for a job in the industry. I joined Valeo right after engineering school. I started as a technical and sales representative in Germany for a small division of Valeo Lighting that specialized in truck signals. My mission was to manage the existing business, which focused on trucks and buses, while also developing the trailer business. This was a great way for me to step into the automotive world.
Your greatest achievement?
It was when we had to develop and implement a design change to fix a field quality issue. This had to be done in record time. Everyone said it would be impossible to do this, but we managed to pull it off because we had a great team and everyone worked very hard.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
My biggest failure came at such an early stage of my professional life that I didn't realize it was a failure until later. It took place when I was negotiating with a customer and I took a hardline position. I won the negotiation but I damaged the relationship, which I had to pay for later. This failure taught me that we have to think long term. Everything we do has consequences and we have to be aware of what they are.
What is your current challenge at work?
I am in charge of the wiper systems business in Europe. My main challenge is to improve the region's profitability by: optimizing the resources at the different sites; reducing manufacturing costs; and launching new and innovative products.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The speed at which the automotive industry and the car itself are changing. That's especially true over the last 10 years. Looking ahead, the pace of change will only accelerate. All this change is great for the consumer and it's a wonderful opportunity for the automotive industry.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
When I became projects director my general manager told me: "If you want to be a good manager, you need to learn to delegate. Don't try to do everything yourself." I try to follow this advice every day.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Come and join us. Life in the automotive industry is thrilling. You will never be bored.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
The first thing I would do is meet with all the stakeholders. That includes the employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders. Using the information from these meetings I would then analyze the company's strengths and weaknesses. That way I could create a strategy that would establish or reaffirm the company's position as a strong, innovative and profitable leader in the industry.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would really like to further my professional growth in a general management position.
What do you do to relax?
Spend time with my family, which really grounds me. I also really enjoy listening to music.
My first car was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle that I bought and restored in 1991.
BMW 5 series.
(All Valeo Wiper Systems)
2013-present: Regional operations director Europe, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany
2010-2013: Managing director / senior site general manager, Bietigheim-Bissingen
2009-2010: Plant and industrial director, Bietigheim-Bissingen
2007-2009: Project management director, Bietigheim-Bissingen
2005-2007: Project management director, North America, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA
2004-2005: Project management manager, North America, Auburn Hills
1998-2004: Program manager, North America, Auburn Hills
1996-1998: Key account manager for General Motors Europe business, Stuttgart, Germany
1994-1996: Sales engineer, Stuttgart