Sheri E. Hickok: Vehicle Chief Engineer, General Motors
Meet one of Little PINK Book’s Top Women in Technology 2012
By Caroline Cox
In the 16 years Sheri Hickok has worked with General Motors, she’s never held the same position for longer than a year and a half. That’s because, when she sees an opportunity, she takes it – ready or not. As the youngest to have ever held her current position as General Motors’ vehicle chief engineer, she’s got more engineering know-how than most twice her age.
Education: Kettering University
Other work experience: A World In Motion
LPB: Where did you get your passion for technology?
SH: I grew up with three brothers, a dad and two uncles on a horse farm in southeastern Michigan. I didn’t have a lot of “girly” influences. My passion for technology has grown over the years from what started as a pure sense of inquisitiveness, driving tractors on a farm and a strong love for math. Now, I get to create products that can genuinely change people’s lives, as I believe the automobile can do, especially in emerging markets globally. That’s truly exciting.
LPB: What was the biggest career obstacle you faced?
SH: I became a member of the Vehicle Dynamics team in Milford, Mich. in 2004. The stigma was that only “car guys” could be Vehicle Dynamics engineers. I entered that role extremely intimidated. In those early days, I often went home and cried. I wanted to prove I could and would do the job, and do it well. In time, I figured out my own networks, built relationships and gained credibility. I have fond memories of this role – the people, technical learning and the product I produced. I am confident my peers feel the same way.
LPB: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
SH: My dream job is to be a wedding planner. I love the dresses, the flowers and all the intricate details. That said, as a Vehicle Chief Engineer for the Cadillac XTS, I consider myself responsible for the “clothing” of the car – all the fancy decorations and details that go into planning for the vehicle’s arrival to the public. I am a pretty lucky lady to have the “wedding planning” job of the auto industry on an amazing product.
LPB: How can more women be successful in the technology field?
SH: Women need to follow their passion more and stop trying to meet everyone else’s expectations. Women need to believe in their own technical competence. They need to strive to be the best “them” and own that. They also need to understand working hard to achieve a goal doesn’t need to be impacted by being a woman. It is about choosing the life you want and keeping a laser-like focus on maintaining and advancing that.
LPB: What’s your success secret?
SH:I’ve given myself difficult goals and created action plans to reach them. Reading, extracurricular activities or volunteering for extra assignments helped me advance. In the second year of my career, I volunteered to leave a product-engineering job in Michigan to work in Wilmington, Del. for six months at an assembly plant as an engineer. Taking myself out of my comfort zone allowed me to learn another function in the company and build a network. I have learned to hold myself accountable and not accept mediocrity. When I want to get something done, there is always a way.
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