Diane Jurgens

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 10:34 AM PDT

Diane Jurgens, Managing Director of Shanghai OnStar, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker series on April 23rd.  Shanghai OnStar is a telematics joint venture of GM in China.  Diane has been a leader in China for GM for more than eight years.  The title of her presentation was, "China: Successfully Navigating the Middle Kingdom."


Diane opened her remarks by recounting her leadership journey.  It began when she was in a leadership development program with Boeing, her employer at the time, and realized she did not have the business training she needed to complement her engineering background. That led her to enroll in our MBA program, and her experience in the program opened her up to the possibility of working globally. Soon after graduation she left Boeing to take a position with GM, and she ended up in China in 2005.


Diane stressed that one ingredient to GM's success in China (the number one car seller in China in seven of the last eight years) was using local partners, who understand the local consumer and how to navigate the political and legal systems.


She noted that one of her struggles in China as a leader has been to get people comfortable with autonomy.  The typical leadership style in China is hierarchical, but she is to a team approach and decentralized decision-making.  She has had to work hard to get her colleagues to embrace this behavior -- they are afraid to make a decision without asking her.


It turns out that the Chinese consumer is a more intensive user of On Star than Americans are.  They are more intensive users of directions because there are always new roads under construction and it easier to keep abreast of the changes with OnStar.  It is also the case that the Chinese consumer has higher expectations for product quality.


When asked what was most important about her SU education, she mentioned two things.  First, ethics and integrity has to be the foundation for everything you do.  Second, she was introduced to the important concept of sunk cost, a tool she has found herself using many times.  For example, if you have invested in a new program and it not working, you don't keep spending on it to "protect your investment."  Instead, you cut your losses and get out of that program.


Diane was also asked what it was like to work in two male dominated industries, aerospace and automobiles.  She responded that in the past she would try to ignore all gender related issues and just let her performance determine her path.  But she has come to realize the importance of mentoring other women with their careers.  She thinks women who have achieved success need to pay it forward and assist other women to have successful careers.


It was a pleasure to welcome Diane Jurgens back to campus, one of the few American females in a leadership role in China's manufacturing sector.  That makes her a great role model for many SU students.


Ironically, the next day I flew to shanghai to visit a partner university, Shanghai International Studies University.  Diane, on the other hand, was flying on to Detroit for a meeting at company headquarters!