I can now finally share more of the story of why I changed direction from building my own company: for the chance to be part of an automotive start-up. Through my decision to leave my employer of more than twenty years, I often questioned whether I should also change industry as well as company.
However, from the time when I was a little girl, fascinated with the prototype GM cars my father brought home with the first car telephone, the first electronic climate control, the first steering wheel controls, and one of the first navigation systems, I have been in love with the car industry.
Despite its failings in many ways, I still see the car and the companies that build it as a complicated and delicate symphony of so many beautiful instruments coming together. Yes, it is clear that we need to move cars away from fossil fuel powertrains, from low to zero emissions. Of course we need to update the technology, the management culture, and the overall ways of working, as evidenced from the Volkswagen, Takata, and GM scandals of recent years.
I have thought several times of joining Tesla, as the mission of the zero-emission car that addressed many of the failings I saw in the more traditional automotive companies, was in many ways what I saw as my only chance to mix innovation with my beloved industry.
Despite my love for Northern California, and my desire to spend more time with my dear friends there and at my alma mater, it just was not really feasible to relocate our family or lives there. Nor could I realistically match my responsibilities for my other roles as mother, wife, daughter, and friend with the incredibly demanding workaholic culture driven by Elon Musk.
When a Chinese company invested in the old SAAB automobile company to build an electric vehicle on the SAAB 9-3, I seriously considered joining up. The commute of more than an hour each way wasn't realistic either, with the constraints of daycare hours. I just couldn't figure out a way to make it work for our family and be able to take any meaningful role.
Last fall, I started at a company called China Euro Vehicle Technology (CEVT), which was founded by Geely Holdings, the same company who had previously purchased Volvo Cars. A Chinese automaker, Geely, with support from the Chinese government, saw the value in investing in Western technology and product development to further expand their brand, both in China and to the rest of the world.
My original intention at CEVT was only for a short duration, to be able to place the consultants I would hire after I had trained them. However, from almost the first day I started working, I instantly felt both at home, and tremendously challenged and invigorated. It was a place where the very broad automotive experience I had developed was valued and needed, and my desire to teach and share was strongly encouraged. I found my Chinese colleagues both quick students, and excellent teachers, as I taught them the knowledge I had gained in Western product development and they taught me about their country, language, and culture.
CEVT was a place where new ideas and creative ways of thinking were welcome, and even more, necessary as we worked daily to build Lynk&Co. The old ways of working were often too slow, as the pace of the East needed to meet the quality of the West. The daily puzzles to meet these two worlds were exactly the stimulation I needed and the application of all that I have learned and all that I believed in.
My love of cars met my Stanford entrepreneurial drive. As the ability to take initiative and work outside of my initial role grew to include recruiting, I very quickly realized that I wanted to put all of me into this company and the chance of building and doing something differently.
This week, I finally was part of an automotive start-up party, and I didn't have to move my family to Silicon Valley. I can't wait to follow this journey forward!