European Leading Women
Name: Maria Helena Antolin Raybaud
Title: Vice chairman
Company: Grupo Antolin
Location: Burgos, Spain
Age: 49
Family: Husband, Christian; sons, Gabriel, 15, Nicolas, 11
Born: Toulon, France
Nationality: Spanish and French
Languages: Spanish, French, English, Italian, some German
Education: MBA from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England; bachelor's degree in international business and business administration from Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Maria Helena Antolin Raybaud

What attracted you to the auto industry?

I have always felt at home in this business. My father founded the company and is quite an inspiration to me. I loved going to the factories with my dad when I was a girl. You could even say this business is part of my DNA.

First automotive job:

Just after leaving university, I spent a year-and-a-half in a factory in Germany as manager in charge of lean production. My objective was to learn how to manage a facility and to be able to detect the main challenges affecting the successful operation of a plant.

What was your big break?

Joining the industrial side of the business was really important for me. Being in this area showed me how important standardization is in our business. I became a big fan of this process and the tools needed to achieve success.

What major challenge have you faced in your career?

There have been many. Perhaps, the most important one was leading a factory in Valencia, Spain. It was the first time in my career that I was responsible for all operations at a plant. I was very young, just 28 years old. I lived through some tough times, but it was worth it.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

Above all, my parents. My father showed me the importance of hard work and my mother taught what’s really important in life. At work my mentor is our current chief commercial officer, Miguel Angel Vicente, who has spent many years in our company. When I started he was the industrial director. His passion and his guidance made me fall in love with the industrial side of the business.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?

It’s all about eliminating barriers. I believe in equal opportunities and we have to work to guarantee them. After that, the company has to choose the best people for the best positions. This has to happen at all levels of the company so that we properly identify and nurture our talent. That’s the only way we will be able to lure and retain the best and brightest in this industry. Above all, we have to find a way to encourage women to choose careers in engineering.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

I do love spending weekends with my family doing different things and forgetting about my work agenda. Some of those things include skiing in the winter and sailing in the summer, watching TV, having dinner with friends and taking short trips.

What keeps you awake at night?

There is just one thing: I find that dealing with human resource issues can be very challenging.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I am really transparent, so I do not think there are a lot of things that people don’t know. I have a hard time hiding my feelings.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I would love to meet Hillary Clinton to discuss the role of women in the future.

If I had it to do all over again, I would ...

Go back and manage our facility in Valencia. I learned a lot of things and I had the chance to work with a great team. I have many great memories from that time. Some of the people are still working in the company and we meet quite often. It’s very nice to see how many of them have risen to important positions within the company.

When and where was your last vacation?

I enjoyed a few very nice days with my family in Ibiza. To me the island is paradise.

Name one talent you wish you had.

I would love to have the ability to find the right answer at exactly the right moment.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

No matter how much money you invest in r&d or in state-of-the-art technologies, people are your most important assets. It is important to take care of them.

What advice would you give your child?    

Work hard and be open-minded so you can learn from different people. You will only achieve this if you travel with open eyes.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

It’s difficult to pick a model, but I would say it would have to be a big car like an SUV. Something that can go anywhere.

Contact Automotive News