Most people who have been in the workforce for more than a decade have done their fair share of job hopping. It’s not uncommon to grow out of a role or to seek different opportunities at a new employer if you’re feeling less than satisfied with your daily grind.
But for Mandi Damman, Chief Engineer for Autonomous Vehicles at General Motors, that hasn’t been necessary. She began her career at the company in 2003 when she was just 18 years old, and while she’s shifted gears 10 times throughout her tenure, she’s still at GM today.
“If I could describe why I’ve stayed at GM for so many years, in one word, it would be opportunity,” Damman says. “From moving to a new department every three months as a student to working in shock tuning trailers one day and managing a $200M budget the next, GM has offered so many unique experiences and taken a chance on me time and time again.
“I joke that every time I start to get comfortable in a role, a new opportunity presents itself,” she adds. “That suits my personality well and has continually challenged me since the day I started.”
It’s no surprise that Damman has felt continually supported and satisfied throughout her 15 years at GM. The company’s known for having incredible women leaders — most notably Mary Barra, who, as GM’s Chairman and CEO, is the first woman to lead the auto industry — and for offering effective development programs and employee resource groups for women.
Damman notes that the company’s focus on development through mentoring has been a real game-changer in her career. Today, she’s responsible for the execution of GM’s first autonomous vehicle, but she started out as a co-op student, having been recruited through GM’s on-campus recruiting efforts. In this first position, Damman rotated through various 3-month Product Development assignments.
She explains how she climbed the ranks: “I was assigned a mentor my very first day as a co-op student and quickly realized how valuable they are for navigating a workplace, especially in a big company like GM. I’ve been fortunate to have several other mentors throughout the years, both formally and informally, male and female.”
“Two of my most challenging assignments to date were recommended by one of my longtime mentors (and former bosses), and if it weren’t for his guidance, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she adds.
In addition to having great mentors and “an extensive amount of on-the-job training,” Damman credits her success to GM’s flexibility. While working full time, she was able to get her Masters in Engineering, complete multiple levels of advanced drivers training, and even participate in Disney Institute professional development training at Disney World.
Other highlights, she says, have been attending an offsite General Motors women’s leadership boot camp and traveling around the country on a 6-week dealership assignment.
The visibility of GM’s product has also helped stir Damman’s passion at work. “Ever since then I’ve been focusing on the customers — their safety as the top priority — and doing everything we can to ensure we exceed their expectations when they drive or ride in our vehicles.”
She says that she’s now feeling that pride and responsibility more than ever as she and her team are working to safely get autonomous vehicles on the road. “General Motors is constantly changing, adapting to the world and leading the way to safer, better solutions,” Damman says. “And I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.”
It’s clear why Damman has never felt stuck or stagnant in her career. But for those who do feel like they’re in a rut, she has some poignant advice: “trust your intuition and take a chance.” She drills down the point that nothing is permanent, and that if we don’t take risks, we may have a hard time finding our passions.
“Women are notorious for looking for the perfect job and only applying to those that we are completely qualified for,” Damman says. “If you take it and it’s not for you, get as much as you can out of the experience — good or bad — and move on.”
If you’re beginning to realize it’s about time you took a new chance in your career (or if you’re just plain sick of your job), you’re in luck. It’s an exciting time at General Motors, and the company’s looking for some of the brightest minds and boldest thinkers to join them.
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