Suzy Cody, Aerodynamics Engineer, Chevrolet

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Reengineering Success

By Sarah Grace Alexander

Suzy Cody is a rocket scientist, literally.

An aerodynamics engineer for Chevrolet, she ensures that vehicles are shaped to have as little wind drag as possible. That means maximum fuel economy, less pollution and more money in customers’ pockets.

She’s part of a special group called the Malibu Moms, four women chosen to help create Chevrolet’s first midsized sedan: the 2013 Malibu.

Their motherly insight is the driving force behind the car’s key components: safety, quietness, fuel economy and overall customer experience.

But, Cody does more than test vehicles in wind tunnels.

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She’s a single mom and a roller derby skater known as “Shovey Camaro.” Blue hair and all, she also passionately organizes a moms support group that does local charity work.

When she’s not on the roller rink, volunteering, or at work, she relaxes over a good book, Jack Daniels and bubble baths.

Here, Cody shares why she loves being an engineer, how she finds time to get everything done and what’s next as she takes on a global assignment.

Little PINK Book: How did you become interested in working in the auto industry?
Suzy Cody: My family has lived in Detroit for many generations, and when you live here it’s in your blood. I appreciate a car’s beauty and the freedom it provides. I love to drive and take road trips. My car is my favorite accessory – I change cars like some women change purses.

LPB: Why is the Malibu Moms team important?
SC: The Malibu Mom team pulls together women with different backgrounds to put their stamp on Chevy’s midsize sedan. Women make lots of car-buying decisions, so it makes sense to get input from people who understand the customer.

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LPB: You mentioned your family earlier. Did your parents do something that helped you break into these industries that are traditionally boys’ worlds?
SC: They never locked me into gender roles. Being a girl didn’t mean I couldn’t play soccer. They fought to get me on a boy’s team since there were no girl leagues when I was young. They also forced me to dance ballet and join girl scouts. I didn’t understand then, but now I know that you won’t know what you like or dislike until you try it.

LPB: What’s the biggest issue that professional women face?
SC: I’m concerned that women will lose sight of what makes them happy because there’s so much pressure to be “successful.” The best thing a woman can do for herself is personally define success and happiness.

LPB: How do you define success?
SC: Being at peace with the path you’re on – feeling like you’re right where you need to be. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t have any regrets.

LPB: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
SC: When I was looking for a job out of college, my brother told me: “Picture where you want to be in 10 years, and only take steps that get you closer to that place. Lateral moves are OK, but never step without that goal in mind.”

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LPB: What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken for your career?
SC: I’ve accepted an assignment to work cooperatively with an aero team overseas. It involves a lot of travel, personal organization and balance. It’s a very foreign place for me. This assignment will help me develop professionally and personally, but it’s definitely outside of my comfort zone. I took it because usually things that scare you are worth doing the most!

LPB: Do you think women can have it all? Do you have it all?
SC: Anyone can have it all, as long as they define that. I’m not the most organized engineer, the craftiest mom, greatest athlete or the sexiest woman. I’m not even in very good shape. But whatever I do, I do it to my level of satisfaction. I feel like I have it all.

Longer office hours would make me a better career woman, but I’d fall down a notch or two in the mom category. Could I make gourmet dinners, do Pinterest crafts and post Instagram pictures of my kids? Sure, but I’d spend less time on work, and I’d drop a notch or two in the career category. “Having it all” is feeling like you have the appropriate balance for you. It’s not about being a high achiever.

LPB: What’s one random, fun fact about you?
SC: My hair is dark brown with blue highlights. Actually, it’s more like blue with dark brown highlights. Yet, I have zero tattoos.

LPB: What’s the biggest career obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
SC: Definitely the birth of my kids. I know that sounds crazy, but a life-changing event like that is bound to have a major impact! I was completely torn between having a career and staying home with them. I struggled significantly with “mommy guilt” and trying to find the right answer for me and my family. This was an incredibly difficult decision, especially while sleep-deprived and pregnant.

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I eventually decided to move to a part-time position. Once they started preschool and kindergarten, I went back full time. The transition was seamless, and now I’m contributing just like I did before, without all of the “what ifs” associated with choosing my kids or my career.

LPB: Do you have life motto?
SC: I have two. I saw a therapist once that told me, “You are not a woman on an island.” I repeat that all the time. My actions and inactions impact the world positively or negatively – it’s my choice. The other is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s easy to feel like you need to prove you can handle everything. You probably CAN, but why prove it? When I feel stressed, I remember to rely on my village!

LPB: What volunteer work do you do?
SC: I help organize a mom’s group that does charity work with Big Family of Michigan and has worked with Turning Point shelter. Lots of people making small contributions really goes a long way. I want my boys to understand how to give back to the community.

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LPB: What kind of legacy would you like to leave?
SC: I would like to inspire kindness. This world needs people need to be nicer to each other. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life – divorce, cancer or sending someone in the military overseas. I make it a point not to underestimate the impact of the smallest action or simplest word.

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