Mary Barra: A Smartforce Love Story

This week, GM revealed its new CEO – Mara Barra, formerly its Senior Vice President of Product Development, the first woman to take the helm at a major automaker.

Allow me a moment of shameless pride over having a female at the top of a major industrial corporation. But beyond that, Mary Barra is exactly the story AMT would write about a “smartforce success story.”

Barra has roots in Michigan. She’s the daughter of a GM tool and die maker. She started at GM in 1980 as a co-op student from the General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, a STEM-focused institution that combines a business and technology/engineering curriculum. She earned an MBA from Stanford in 1990. Moving through a variety of manufacturing and engineering jobs, she moved into management and executive positions, rising through the company ranks to become GM’s top executive at a time when the automaker is returning to profitability and the U.S. government has relinquished the remainder of its company ownership.

At AMT, this exactly the kind of path we so often promote for smartforce success. We advocate for students to begin their careers with a technical education, honing their chops on the production floor and, if they so desire, later moving on to an advanced education (oftentimes with their employers helping to foot the tuition bill). It’s a great way to build a career without the onerous debt of student loans.

Of course, not everyone will rise to become CEO of a major automaker. But Mary Barra certainly stands up as a fantastic model of success – female or otherwise.



Categories: Executive Corner, Smartforce

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