Monika Gutenschwager, 41
Executive director quality, Adient
Family:Husband, Martin; son, Konrad, 5; daughter, Julia, 2
Born: Bratislava, Slovakia
Languages: Slovak, English, German
Education: Master's degree in economics, University of Economics, Bratislava, Slovakia
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Right around the time when I completed my studies, Slovakia's automotive industry was growing rapidly. Even though I didn't even have my diploma in hand, I was hired right away as a young quality engineer for a greenfield plant. I joined the Johnson Controls family and found my professional home. It is 18 years later and I am still very happy being part of the automotive world.
Your greatest achievement?
I really enjoy working with my team every day and leading the European quality function for our seating business. Our success makes me proud and shows that I have made the right decisions in my life.
We have become an efficient and close team. No one works alone. It is all about collaboration and joint success. While I am grateful for the success in my career, I am also the mother of two young children. It is a challenge. I count raising them as my most important personal achievement.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Life has taught me not to react too emotionally. I did that when I was young and that quickly caused frustration on both sides. Therefore, I had to learn to take time to reflect and control my emotions.
What is your current challenge at work?
I am in charge of quality strategy and the quality management for 50 plants of the seating group. The challenges are to steer improvement plans together with my team so we meet customer specifications and ensure that product-specific requirements are in compliance with international as well as industry standards.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
Today we are faced with rapidly changing technologies revolving around mobility, electrification, autonomous driving, connectivity and robotics. That means we have to be quite adaptable to change. These developments will significantly impact how people live, work and travel. I am curious to see how the world and how mobility will change in the future. I am also looking forward to being part of the process of improving the experience of a world in motion.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
When I started working in my first European leadership role, my supervisor told me to always have confidence in people. He said trust is the glue that keeps the team together and makes teamwork effective. Since then I have made trust my No. 1 leadership principal.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Use every job to learn something new. You have to keep an open mind to constantly work on yourself. Unlike many other sectors, the automotive industry offers lots of opportunities to get involved in exciting new technology.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Autonomous driving will change the automotive world. However, seats, which are our key product, will continue to be essential. I would be happy to continue in a leading role where I can give direction and influence on global collaboration to build appealing products for the cars of the future. Raising product quality and safety is the motor that drives me.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy being with my family. I also try to clear my mind by jogging. Cooking really helps me relax and I get to show my creative side.
What is your pet peeve?
I really can't tolerate it when people treat others without respect. When it comes to business, I don't like it when people rely on others to do their job and don't own their work.
What was your first car?
I drove a Granny Smith apple green Opel Corsa.
BMW X5 hybrid.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a sporty, classy Porsche 911. It has a lot of power and innovation by combining speed with elegance.
May 2017-present: Executive director quality, Adient, Burscheid, Germany
2014-2017: Director operations manufacturing engineering, Adient/Johnson Controls, Burscheid
2013-2014: Director business development VW Group and compliance geographic program leader, Johnson Controls, Burscheid,
2012-2013: Director product and business development VW Group, Johnson Controls, Burscheid
2008-2012: Quality director VW Group, Johnson Controls, Burscheid
2007-2008: Quality manager processes and warranty, Johnson Controls, Burscheid
2002-2007: Quality manager, Johnson Controls, Lozorno, Slovakia
2000-2002: Supplier quality engineer, Johnson Controls, Lozorno,