Career ladder: Blaker, 58, started out in the family business as one of its first full-time employees, initially proofing automotive service manuals written by her father before moving up in that department and then taking on accounting for the company. By the early 1990s, she was serving as a divisional president, working with Ford Motor Co. to train automotive electronic control technicians — while holding down a second job as a hostess at the Palace of Auburn Hills' Palace Grille as her father made her earn her stripes. A year after his death in 1992, her mother named her CEO of TTI.
Power metric: The company has grown to about $100 million in revenue from $3 million when Blaker took over. At the time, it employed 20 people at its lone, metro Detroit office. Today, TTI employs close to 2,000, operating in 25 or more countries.
Super power/secret weapon/special skill: Blaker said communicating effectively with employees and clients is where she gets her edge. "Understanding where their pain points are, and working together to help alleviate those are how you develop win-win situations — we want our clients to be heroes."
What was your biggest professional win? Through a project for Ford Motor Co., TTI established its first international office in 1995-96 in China. This became the "springboard for all our international growth (with) many lessons learned, and refined, country after country" afterward, Blaker said.
Surprising fact: She wanted to be either a journalist or a nurse when she was growing up.
What lessons would you say you have learned professionally? Having observed large OEM companies for years now, Blaker is wary of the red tape and slowness that comes with big organizations. "Lack of contact with the troops" can put business leaders out of touch. "Know your people, know what concerns them, treat them fairly, involve them."
What drives you professionally? "I hate to lose."
Do you have any comments on the degree to which women have been able to attain professional success in your field? "While we have not gotten to the point where women have achieved seniority at the same level as men in the automotive industry, I think it's just reality that it will take time to develop. And as much as I would like to see that today, it just isn't possible yet. ... We just need to work and encourage more women to enter our industry."
Jennette SmithHere's how we produced this special section.
Jennette SmithWe view all of our honorees over the years as part of a "legacy list," some of whom should be considered as prospects for corporate and nonprofit board service.
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Staff Blog | Jennette SmithI've been living and breathing this project for months and got by with a little help from my friends in the newsroom and at companies across the state.
Staff Blog | Mary KramerThat's why Crain's Detroit Business has joined with the Michigan Women's Commission and Deloitte, among others, to create a path to help more companies find talent for their boards.
Crain's Detroit BusinessIn an effort to boost women's representation on for-profit corporate boards, Crain's Detroit Business on Tuesday night launched the Michigan Women's Directory. The launch coincided with the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan recognition event that was attended by about 700 people.