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Erin Brooks is a Strategic Sourcing Manager of Core Technologies at Tesla Motors (NASDAQ TSLA). At Tesla, Ms. Brooks is responsible for developing a long term, scalable supply base strategy to enable Tesla’s goal of accelerating the world’s adoption of increasingly affordable electric cars. Prior to Tesla, Ms. Brooks worked at global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, where she led projects in strategic sourcing, manufacturing, and organizational transformation for Fortune 500 clients, and in various management roles at automotive manufacturers, including Honeywell, Cummins Inc., and Ford Motor Company. Ms. Brooks received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Michigan and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Ms. Brooks is a board member of Kids’ Vision, a non-profit designed to expose girls to how STEM is applied in high tech companies in Silicon Valley. She is an accomplished leader of organizations whose mission is aligned with encouraging young women to enter careers in STEM, and promoting the full potential of professional women in careers as engineers and leaders, such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Women’s Club of Silicon Valley.
To learn more about Erin:
Q: What do you do?
Erin: Most recently, I was a Sr. Purchasing Manager of Core Technologies at Tesla Motors (NASDAQ TSLA). At Tesla, where I was responsible for developing a long term, scalable supply base strategy to enable Tesla’s goal of accelerating the world’s adoption of increasingly affordable electric cars.
Prior to Tesla, I worked Engineering, Program Management, and Purchasing roles at other automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, including Honeywell Turbo Technologies, Cummins Inc., and Ford Motor Company. I took a brief hiatus from the automotive world in 2009 – 2014 to get my MBA and spent three years in management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, working with Fortune 500 clients on their Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, and Supply Chain strategies.
Q: Why do you love your job?
Erin: My job at Tesla really merged my love of the automotive industry, and my passion to drive change and develop technologies that help our environment. I think it’s important to love the product you are working on. In my previous companies in automotive, in clean diesel for example, we were able to make incremental improvements every year by meeting the stricter EPA emissions regulations. But these government-mandated improvements only can take us so far – Tesla is a game-changer, and I’m so excited to be part of the clean-tech revolution.
Q: What is your proudest career moment?
Erin: The first time I awarded a college scholarship to a female engineer. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) awards over $700,000 in scholarships for women entering programs in engineering and computer science, and I’ve been on the scholarship judge committee since 2005. The first year, I awarded a scholarship to a young mother of two who was pursuing an engineering degree - she was extremely bright and talented, but desperately needed the financial support to help continue her studies at UCLA.
I’ve never felt more proud and humbled when I awarded her the scholarship and saw the gratitude and appreciation that she exuded. I myself was a recipient of a SWE scholarship as an engineering undergraduate at University of Michigan, and I couldn’t have been more proud to pay it forward.
Q: Outside of your day job, what else are you passionate about?
Erin: Outside of work, my personal mission is to encourage young girls to pursue opportunities and success in the underrepresented fields of STEM, by acting as a positive role model for young girls, and by leading non-profit organizations that expose young girls to opportunities in STEM fields. As a young woman and Mechanical Engineer, I learned to navigate in the workplace as an under-represented minority in my field, largely on my own, so I’ve always been passionate about sharing my story in the hope that it can help other young women. But I’ve realized the real game-changer is the potential impact that I can make on younger girls. 10 years ago, I led a group of volunteers from the Society of Women Engineers to work with Girl Scouts of America to invite girls to earn an engineering technical badge and generate an interest STEM.
Today I’m on the board of Kids’ Vision, a non-profit designed to expose girls to how STEM is applied in high tech companies in Silicon Valley. Kids’ Vision empowers 3rd to 6th grade girls through an after-school program which brings them into the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley, where they learn how math and science concepts are applied, and meet with female mentors and role models in STEM who work at the companies.
Q: What other women in your industry do you admire?
Erin: Recently I had the opportunity to meet Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors – who is the first woman to lead a global automotive manufacturer. What struck me about Mary was her commitment to her employees - she spoke about how she has a tremendous sense of responsibility to the current 212,000 employees worldwide, and wants to build a better General Motors company that will last for the next 100 years.
Q: What books, blogs, podcasts, networking groups or other resources do you recommend for women interested in your field?
Erin: I’m a member of the 2015 inaugural class of the Incubator program with the CLUB of Silicon Valley. It’s an advocacy program designed to give senior women leaders a boost to help propel their career growth and personal potential. The Incubator was founded by Laraine McKinnon, a long-time advocate for women’s leadership, who observed a gap in public recognition for many highly successful senior leaders and created the program to address it. What is truly unique about the CLUB Silicon Valley and the women of the Incubator is their desire and drive to give back to others.
Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Erin: One of the hallmarks of success in my roles is frequent feedback. I believe that being a good people manager is giving and receiving frequent feedback among your team so that you are all on the same page with priorities, responsibilities, opportunities for improvement and celebrating wins. It’s super important to have frequent, real-time dialogue with your team and your boss, so that you know what’s working well, and what to refine.
Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
Erin: My one piece of advice is to own your career. You need to take ownership of the direction you want your career path to go. Do not be afraid to ask for more responsibility, ask for a promotion, take on new roles, change companies, relocate, etc. It’s up to you to be your own advocate and be proactive about what you want.
Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming? Explain.
Erin: Hands down, I’m most proud being a woman engineer. As a mechanical engineer, and working in Automotive and Tech industries, I’ve always been one of very few women in the workplace. Establishing credibility among both my technical and non-technical colleagues, both as an engineer and leader, and has been key to my success. I’m immensely proud of serving as a positive role model to the more junior women in my organization of what a woman engineer and leader looks like.
Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten? Explain what and why it was so good.
Erin: When I joined Tesla, my boss and mentor told me “welcome to the revolution!”. His advice was that no matter how large or small of an organization you work in, you should not be afraid to change things for the better. If the team structure, processes, or ways of working aren’t optimal– then don’t be afraid to change them. This piece of advice really empowered me to take ownership of the organization and create a future-state that I wanted to be a part of.
Q: How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?
Erin: Some mentor / mentee relationships are natural, and some only come about if you approach the person. When I was a young professional early in my career at Honeywell, and we had a new female executive in the organization, I approached her right away to ask her to be my mentor. As one of the few women in Honeywell’s automotive division, she served as a more senior mentor with a similar engineering background that provided me with great advice. I’m so glad that I wasn’t shy about asking for her to be my mentor and scheduling monthly lunches!
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Erin: First, you have to prioritize what’s important to you, and second, you have to set boundaries to make time for your top priorities. For me, the time with my husband is a priority. We decided to set aside Tuesday nights to cook dinner together – so no matter what is going on at work or with friends, we always protect that one night per week in our calendars. My other top prioritize is my health. I’m a firm believer that eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep will enable me to be happier and more effective in my career, so I make time to work out at least 5 times per week. Once you identify your top priorities, you can set boundaries – leaving the office, setting aside your cell phone, etc. – to make time for the things that are most important to you.