Tracy L. Mack-Askew General Motors Vehicle Line Manager>

Tracy Mack-Askew is a jet setter of sorts. She has spent hundreds of hours on airplanes and in hotels, trekking from Detroit to Kansas every other week for many months managing the manufacturing launch of the all-new Chevrolet Malibu sedan. It’s a challenging job with a global impact, as the vehicle will be a sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents.

“I’m not a typical engineer. I’m not a ‘gear head,’ but I know there’s no limits to what I can achieve,” said Mack-Askew. “As the oldest of three siblings, and almost a surrogate mom to them, I had great responsibilities growing up and I bring that sensibility to my work. I’m not afraid of big challenges.”

As the Vehicle Line Manager, Mack-Askew is responsible for working with the engineering and manufacturing groups to ensure the timely U.S. launch of the vehicle. Throughout the program she has faced many challenges – from bringing the new Malibu to market six months ahead of schedule to balancing her home life with the demands of the job.

At an early age, Mack-Askew found math and science challenging and inspiring after attending an automotive crash test site through a high school mentoring program. This then grew into a long career at GM starting in 1999 where she’s now held a variety of engineering positions around the organization and has received a patent in 2010 that prevents light bulb burnout for automotive applications.

She has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Science in Engineering from Purdue University. Mack-Askew is also currently working on a Master of Arts in Management from Harvard University. Mack-Askew is married and has two children. When she’s not traveling she attends piano lessons, swim classes and Kumon courses with her children.

“My personal mission is to maintain a strong family unit, and while I can’t be there for every swim race and event, I can do my very best to be present and to do my job well,” explained Mack-Askew.

HerHighway’s Editor in Chief Christina Selter interviewed Tracy regarding how the automotive industry is perfect for women. The video is coming soon, but for now enjoy some of the Q&A below.

Who have you mentored and did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
Yes, I firmly believe in mentoring. I have several protégés I am mentoring and have several people who have mentored me. Mentoring is instrumental to any career. It is important not only to have superiors mentoring you, but don’t underestimate the value of peer mentors as well. Having people to bounce ideas and circumstances off of that have your best interests at heart, whatever their rank, is invaluable.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
One of my favorite features in the car is seat position memory, so it is easy for my husband and I to get our seats the way we both like it. I also love OnStar which gives me directions to any location. I love Chevy Link radio that streams Pandora over the car audio system, and as a mom of toddlers, I really like the electronic child lock button that easily prevents my kids from trying to open the rear car doors.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
The auto industry seems like a difficult environment for women because so many men love cars, they naturally gravitate toward the auto industry. Since the population of men in the auto industry is large, it appears difficult for women to get in to, but it has gotten much better. There’s still more work to do, but it is a lot easier than when Baby Boomers first entered the work force.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
The auto industry is one of the most fun and exciting industries in the world. Who wouldn’t want to work where you can drive off-road in trucks, or speed on race tracks, or brake on ice? A car is one of the top three purchases consumers make and it’s very critical to peoples’ lives. This industry impacts the world and changing the world greatly appeals to me. It’s my heart’s desire.

First automotive job?
During my first automotive job, I was a summer intern functioning as a paint manufacturing engineer. I worked to install a new technology in paint systems into the assembly plants across the country. At the time, I was planning to go into chemical engineering although I eventually changed to mechanical engineering.

Proudest professional achievement?
My proudest professional achievement is successfully leading a phenomenal team of people to launch the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into the marketplace six months ahead of schedule.

Current challenge at work?
If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Seriously though, one of my challenges has been working to accelerate the launch of the new Malibu by six months in order to launch ahead of other competitors. It required a great deal of collaboration and teamwork across functions and teams but we made it happen.

Dream job?
I have lots of dreams, so I will share more than one dream job.
I would love to be the U.S. Secretary of State (because I love traveling and different cultures), or an astronaut because I want to travel to the moon, or a Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company benefiting not only shareholders and employees, but the greater global community at large.

What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
During school I played basketball, volleyball, ran track, sang in the choir, and did pep squad. I greatly enjoy dance, and love to watch it. I also enjoy watching football.

What do you do to relax?
On a daily basis to unwind I surf Facebook after putting the kids to bed. For major pampering and relaxation, about once or twice a year, I get a hot lava rock massage with cocoa butter. That’s the ultimate!