Mary Barra

Mary Barra is the CEO of GM, where she has been working since the age of 18 in a college co-op program. She graduated from Kettering University, then called the General Motors Institute, in 1985 with a degree in electrical engineering. She started as a senior engineer at a Pontiac Fiero plant. GM then sent her to Stanford Business School for her MBA given her promise as a manager. Immediately after getting her MBA, she got her first job as a GM manager, running manufacturing planning. Then came a series of increasingly visible jobs, including executive assistant to GM's CEO in the mid '90s, fixing a troubled internal communications department, turning around an important and troubled Detroit plant, and bringing data and efficiency to the company's messy human resources department, which earned her a spot on GM's executive committee.

In 2011 came her biggest test: She was appointed senior vice president for global product development, determining the look, feel, and engineering of GM's most important products, despite having very little experience in designing or developing vehicles. Her manufacturing and quality background proved useful and resulted in an increase in the quality and perception of GM vehicles.

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