What does it mean to be dedicated to learning?
For me, it means looking for every opportunity to learn and doing whatever it takes to seize those opportunities when they come along. As a lifelong learner, sometimes that opportunity was for deep reflection on my own and other times it meant making a conscious decision to share my perspective, even if I felt unsure or uncomfortable. Back when I began my career at Toyota Motor North America in the R&D division in 1999, I didn’t think being dedicated to learning would one day mean uprooting my family from the only home they’ve ever known for an opportunity 1,400 miles away – but that’s the opportunity I seized just this year.
The moment I started at R&D as an administrative assistant, I knew I would only hold that role for a short time. After all, I had just joined a company that is known for promoting from within and prioritizing internal development. I felt like I was starting on a journey destined for greatness. I embraced the idea of always looking for the next opportunity to advance my professional career and continue my education.
One of the great things about Toyota is that you really can make your job whatever you want it to be. Of course, you’re given certain roles and responsibilities. But in the spirit of kaizen, you’re also encouraged to look for ways to do things better. So, as I’ve mastered one role, I’ve always looked to grow and expand into others.
I employed that mindset throughout my career at Toyota’s R&D facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it made my developmental journey thrive. Fast forward 24 years and 7 promotions later, I now hold the position of General Manager of Administration and Production Control at Toyota’s truck plant in San Antonio, Texas. I oversee Human Resources, Production Control and the Accounting and Finance department.
As I start this new journey in Texas, I’m making three key things priority: learning manufacturing operations, furthering our commitment to the surrounding community and ensuring that our diverse talent meets their fullest potential.
When I think back on how such a big job transition came about, I remember seeking out advice from some plant executives and sharing that I wanted manufacturing experience. In addition to embracing learning, I also kept myself open to challenges. The manufacturing side of the business is vastly different from the design side so I knew it would be a different experience, even if it was with the same company.
My success was not without effort or sacrifice though. Uprooting my family was a very difficult decision. But I felt that showing my daughters that taking risks was an important part of their development. I really wanted them to see that change is necessary to continue to grow.
And there is no doubt that I will continue to proactively chart my own career through learning and leadership. Change is not easy or comfortable, but it is necessary to continue growing as a mother, employee and citizen. My favorite quote is from Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”