Mary Henige GM Director, Social Media & Digital Communications >

Mary Henige has held many communications positions in her 25 years with General Motors. In her current role as director, social media and digital communications, she leads GM’s social media strategy, employee policy and training; blogs; community engagement on GM’s corporate brand channels; and crisis monitoring and response. Her team works in cooperation with other areas to broaden the reach of GM’s “stories” including video development and media outreach.

Additionally, Mary oversees GM’s creative interactive and user experience team who develop and support the company’s global intranet and external web sites and channels such as the media site, corporate blogs and retiree web site.

In November 2011, she was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame, which recognizes “Pioneers in public relations who have left a lasting mark and have been outspoken leaders in one or more areas.”

HerHighway’s Editor in Chief Christina Selter interviewed Mary at the Detroit Auto Show regarding how the automotive and social meida industry is perfect for women. The video is coming soon, but for now enjoy some of the Q&A below.

Did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?

I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t of been for my dad. He was a proud GM engineer for more than 30 years. Like many parents, he took it upon himself to send my resume to several GM public relations directors asking about internships. My resume made it to the right person, and as they say, the rest is history. Clearly, this isn’t the best way to find a job! However, it’s made me very aware of how college students need a bit of prodding from every direction!

I’ve had a couple of good mentors over the years. The first was Dee Allen who was the director of Pontiac Communications. He promoted me to PR manager when I was 27. One of the first things he said to me was, “You already know communications. What you need to learn now is the business and the industry.” He was great with explanations, trust, supportive cheers, and frankly letting me know when I failed until the day he retired.

The other exceptional mentor I had was the General Manager of Pontiac-GMC Division Lynn Myers. At that time she was one of the highest ranking women in the industry. She was a great role model and freely talked about her experiences as a woman as well as helped me to understand the organizational dynamics. She also was incredibly supportive when I was on bed rest for a few months prior to having my second child.

Who have you mentored?
I’ve mentored dozens of college students and new professionals over the years. It’s kind of my “thing.” I take great pleasure in helping others launch their careers, and in watching them excel. I’ve learned as much, if not more, from those I mentor than they probably do from me. Often leaders see mentoring as a time zapper, and it can be, but it’s an important part of being a professional AND a human being.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?

I love heated and cooled seats, remote start and automatic life gates. From a mom’s perspective, I like that my kids each have their own seat mounted DVD players and audio jacks in my Buick Enclave, which helps to avoid “entertainment choice” arguments. Finally, it almost goes without saying, but I couldn’t live without OnStar!

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?

I don’t think that the auto industry is necessarily difficult for women. This is a competitive and often exhausting industry for women and for men. Over the years I noticed that those who have grown up in the auto industry thrive on the pace and the competiveness, and many who come into the industry, give up and return to what they were doing before.

We do tend to travel in this global industry, more than most, and that can be hard on a family. In my fortunate circumstance, my husband retired early from his career as a GM engineering manager to become a stay at home dad eight years ago. Everyone needs support and flexibility and I’ve found that at home and at GM.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?

It’s big, important to the global and local economies, exciting, filled with opportunities, and people care about cars, like few other goods.
First automotive job?
Exhibit representative at GM’s World of Motion Pavilion at Epcot Center, in Orlando, Florida.

Proudest professional achievement?

Overseeing GM’s communications internship program for nearly a decade. I’ve had the joy and privilege of identifying many of our talented professionals. It’s been a thrill to introduce them to GM and to the city of Detroit. I have a lot of love for both.

Current challenge at work?
I’ve been in my social media and digital role for three years. It’s been incredibly interesting. The challenge, however, is in the sheer magnitude of the speed of conversations and the development of new social web channels. I think for most professionals these days, we need to work on the important, in addition to the daily urgent distractions, in order to make any progress.

Dream job?

Hard to say. I’ve enjoyed nearly every position I’ve had at GM over the last 26 years. A dream job is exciting when I’m able to define the role, learn new things, stretch, and meaningfully contribute to GM and my team’s success.

What you do to relax?
I’m grateful to be a wife and mom and spending time with my family is always number one. That said I also enjoy cooking, reading and volunteering.