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Monday, 23 December 2019 16:07

GM’s Christine Sitek Shares Insights and Wisdom at AWAF’s Holiday Affair

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AWAF members enjoy networking with one another. (Pictured left to right: Board Member Kellie Treppa, Board Member Kathy Smith, and 2019 Board Member Marion Wells). AWAF members enjoy networking with one another. (Pictured left to right: Board Member Kellie Treppa, Board Member Kathy Smith, and 2019 Board Member Marion Wells). AWAF, Stonecrest Photography


On Dec. 5, the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF) hosted its 2019 Holiday Affair at Art Leaders Gallery in West Bloomfield, MI.

In addition to including AWAF’s First Annual Awards Ceremony, the evening featured special guest speaker Christine Sitek, executive director of global purchasing & supply chain at General Motors. According to AWAF Board Member Axel Cooley, “The event was well attended; in fact, it was sold out! Christine shared great insights and pearls of wisdom with the audience at AWAF’s Holiday Affair. First, she discussed the importance of balance in life and the importance of taking time to relax, and then she was asked to share some highlights on how she arrived at where she is today. She also offered advice for career advancement.”


Sitek has been at GM for the entirety of her 31-year career. She shared, “It has been an incredible ride. There is no real secret to success – it is simple: work hard and take on challenging assignments. This seems basic, but in big corporations where there are politics, it may be about who you know, but for me, it was always more about who knew me instead.”


Developing a reputation as a hard worker, Sitek was frequently pulled into tough assignments, and if she could offer her younger self a suggestion, she would have told herself to take on even more challenging assignments. “This truly pays off,” she said. “It’s important to build your own brand.”


When attendees asked for career advice, Sitek offered, “Women should and need to self-advocate more. In general, this tends to be a hard thing for women to do. Research says that women are bad at self-promotion. In fact, if men and women are given the same self-assessment and asked to rate themselves from one to 100 on how well they did on the test, women rate themselves 46 on average, whereas men rate themselves 66. This highlights our inability to self-promote.”

Sitek also advised, “Learn to say no. This is important. Some women feel like they have to say yes in order to be liked or to belong; however, with time, you will find that even if you say no, people will take notice that you make decisions super clear. They still see your ability to work hard, your ability to do things well, and they will still like you. Don’t let someone else tell your story or your narrative. Don’t let someone else speak for you. Make an effort to tell your own story, your way.”


For those who don’t yet have a very long story, Sitek advised taking on challenging, uncomfortable projects and assignments. “Get comfortable with getting uncomfortable. Once you do this one time, you learn to repeat it … and you get comfortable with the unknown. You master the ability to project confidence. There is a science behind this, it is often referred to as ‘fake it until you make it.’ It works. I’m proof of that. It really works. Believe in yourself and go for it.”


Discussing the significant changes occurring in the automotive energy, Sitek expressed excitement over autonomous vehicles and how they “are forcing us to be more competitive than ever and responsive in a different way. Today, it is wonderful to see companies take on a mission that is bigger than ourselves. It’s about the purpose, and this is extremely energizing. It is this energy, this purpose, that will give way to getting the employment and talent that we need.”


“I can’t count how many different people have played a key role in the advancement of my career – people of all shapes and sizes. Most have been men, including my bosses … and my husband has been the lowest-paid mentor. He truly has been key,” Sitek said when asked about the importance of mentors. “I would advise women to seek out multiple feedbacks for different perspectives because everyone’s experience is different. Find mentorship in multiple people. Build relationships with people. Don’t just call them when you need something. Take time to map this out. Determine who you need to know and be very strategic about it.”

When asked what she would do differently in her career if she could go back in time, Sitek shared, “My biggest regret is to not have lived outside of the USA. My career never took me overseas. I feel that if I would have had a chance to see the world earlier, this would have made a difference. There is something important that takes place when you get to see how other nations function. There is a sense of true appreciation that is born.”


AWAF also held its First Annual Awards Ceremony during the 2019 Holiday Affair. Maureen LaFontaine was posthumously honored for her contributions to the automotive industry with the Industry Achievement Award which honors a woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the industry for at least ten years while promoting and supporting her fellow women to achieve their automotive career aspirations.


The Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes a woman who has been in her career for ten years or less and has demonstrated outstanding performance and leadership, was bestowed upon Sara Mohon. Dr. Craig J. Hoff, P.E. received the Change Champion Award which honors a man or company who has significantly contributed to the acceptance and advancement of women in the automotive industry.


Art Leaders Gallery donated 10 percent of their proceeds from the evening to AWAF’s Scholarship Fund. For more information about AWAF, visit awafoundation.org.

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