Making it in the auto industry is a tough climb for any executive, but when you’re Black and female, it’s doubly so. Which is why the success of Alicia Boler-Davis (senior vice president of global quality and global customer experience for General Motors) is so inspiring.
During her nearly 20-year career with the auto giant, Davis has risen steadily through various organizations within the company, delivering superlative results for the company at every stage through her strong leadership and great attention to details. Under her leadership, GM—for the first time in its history—earned the strongest initial quality marks of all major automakers, also taking the top spot in eight vehicle segments. That’s big news, not only for the venerable car giant, but for the U.S. economy overall.
For Davis, earning high marks is a personal principal she applies to every area of her life. She recently spoke to EBONY.com about her exciting new role at GM and her advice for moving up the ladder in corporate America.
EBONY: What is your job and describe your overall role at GM?
Alicia Boler-Davis: I am the senior vice president of global quality and global customer experience for General Motors, which means I am responsible for leading the development and the execution of GM’s strategy to be a recognized leader in product quality and services in our quest to create to create lifelong customers. My teams make sure that our product quality exceeds our customer expectations relative to performance, reliability and durability of their ownership cycle.
We are very customer-centric and place a premium on creating and maintaining positive relationships with our customers. That relationship starts from the very beginning with our product development and on through, where the customer is actually interfacing with our vehicles, the buy and entire ownership. We take very seriously our ability to provide accessible, knowledgeable and transparent relationship to our customers because we want them to have confidence and loyalty to our brands.
EBONY: Why did you pick a career in the automotive industry?
ABD: Growing up I was very good at math and science, and I always had an interest in tweaking and fixing things. I decided to study Engineering in college, and having grown up in Detroit, the auto industry was everywhere. I was always very passionate about cars, and so when the opportunity came to join GM, I jumped on it. I thought it was ideal, and I knew it was a company where I would have the opportunity to do a lot of different things.
EBONY: What distinctive qualities do you bring to your job?
ABD: I have a very diverse background that includes work in manufacturing, product development, planning. And for the past year and a half, I’ve had an opportunity to work really closely with our sales and marketing organization, which is something very important. I also have a proven track record for driving change and obtaining results and leading a team effectively.
Personally, I truly have a passion for our customers. Our customers are the reason that we exist, and we really need to stay our focused on that, and I’m very passionate about that. Growing up, I liked to fix things and solving problems. I welcome challenges and look at that as a way for us to get better. I enjoy people and leading a team to come up with our strategy and executing it.
EBONY: Are there any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome to achieve success in your career?
ABD: As I entered the automotive industry, I was aware that it was very male dominate and without a lot of diversity, especially in technical roles. However, even though I didn’t have a lot of role models who looked like me when I entered this industry, I was very fortunate to work with people who saw that I was dedicated and capable and competent, and so a lot of those biases went away.
I’ve been very fortunate, because GM is a company very committed to diversity, and we have a number of women and minorities in leadership positions here. The company has a track record of creating the environment and opportunity and the really deliverable results that have helped over time changed the perception, as well as the environment.
Gil Robertson IV is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author and president of the African-American Film Critics Association.