Saadia Ajana, 37
Program and sales director, Symbio
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
As a child I fondly remember traveling across Morocco our Renault 4L and how much I enjoyed watching my father repair that car. It was a given that one day I would be part of the automotive industry. I was so proud to start my professional life as a product engineer at Faurecia in 2007.
Family: Husband, Julien; son, Ilyass, infant
Born: Casablanca, Morocco
Nationality: Moroccan and French
Languages: Arabic, French, English, some Spanish
Education: Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, University of Compiegne, Compiegne, France
Your greatest achievement?
I’m proud of the winning team spirit that I built up during my two years at Delphi. When I started as business manager within Delphi, the relations internally and with the customer were strained. After gaining an understanding of everyone’s needs and perspectives, I convinced my team that their personal contributions were important and got them to pursue the same objective. We not only regained the customer’s trust, we also won new business. Putting people first is how I achieve my business goals.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
So far, I have been fortunate to avoid any major failures. Should something happen in the future I will listen to the advice I give my team: fail fast and move on quickly. You have to keep trying new things and be ready to fail. It’s the only way to go forward.
What is your current challenge at work?
Currently, we are transforming Symbio from a startup to a Tier 1 supplier. It’s a challenge I tackle every day by focusing on two important areas: the business and the people. When it comes to the business, we are working in a market that isn’t established yet. I have to build a customer and business strategy based on various scenarios. After weighing the opportunities, I have to be able to adjust our next steps. Then there is the human element. Symbio is made up of people from Faurecia and Michelin. We have to create a common culture and motivate the team to pursue a common goal, without the benefit of having standard operating procedures.
January-present: Program and sales director, Symbio (Faurecia & Michelin JV), Lyon, France
2017-2019: Business group program director, Faurecia Clean Mobility, Paris, France
2015-2017: Business manager for PSA electrical/electronic architecture, Delphi, Paris
2013-2015: Program manager for Renault Espace, Faurecia Interior Systems, Meru, France
2011-2013: Program sales leader for Renault Kangoo/Mercedes-Benz Citan, Faurecia Interior Systems, Meru
2008-2011: Mechanical engineer, Faurecia Interior Systems, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA
2007-2008: Product engineer, Faurecia Interior Systems, Meru
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Be authentic, even if that sometimes means you have to take an unpopular position.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
My advice lends itself to any professional field: Make people a priority. Put them into position to be successful. Give them the basics and then let them grow. This will optimize business performance.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Any job that will allow me to contribute to sustainable and affordable mobility.
What do you do to relax?
I like to run and to cook.
What is your dream location to live?
I would like to be close enough to the mountains to run and the sea to do some scuba diving. Places such as Corsica or Martinique would be perfect. That being said, I can live anywhere as long as my family is with me.
What is your favorite driving song?
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
My husband and I went on a three-week trip through Japan. We participated in a Buddhist pilgrimage. We were surrounded by nature and temples. It’s brought us back to what’s essential to us.
What was your first car?
A Fiat Punto.
Peugeot 308 GT and I love it.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I wouldn’t be a car. I would be running shoes