Name: Erin Sawyer
Job / Title: Sr. Purchasing Manager of Core Technologies
Company: Tesla Motors
Industry: Automotive, High-Tech, Clean-Tech
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, 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.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
Erin: This year I became a board member of the non-profit Kids’ Vision, which is an organization that works to inspire young girls to enter into STEM fields. We created an amazing after-school program, where girls 3rd thru 6th grade visit tech companies in Silicon Valley, meet female role models working in those organizations, and do hands-on experiments to learn about how mathematics and science are applied in companies in Silicon Valley. I believe providing positive role models of women in STEM is critical for increasing our future pipeline of women engineers and leaders.
Erin was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her achievements in the automotive industry and her passion for giving back to young women in STEM. Erin has been recognized as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation. You can learn more about Erin’s professional interests and volunteer highlights at www.erinsawyer.com.