Focus on the next generation workforce in ways that may be different to past thinking. For example, I believe we have to let our high school students know that manufacturing is a great career. Four-year colleges may not be for everyone and the two-year technical schools have a great future to offer.
As part of my series about companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvette Hunsicker. Yvette serves as the vice president of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID) office at Honda North America, Inc. with responsibility for leading the company’s inclusion and diversity practices and the Human Resources division of Honda North America, Inc. Hunsicker joined Honda of America Mfg. Inc. (HAM) in 1989 as a production associate in the Marysville Auto Plant’s Welding Department. While in production, she also held positions at the Anna Engine Plant and the East Liberty Auto Plant, making her well qualified to join the Human Resources team in 1994. After joining the Human Resources department, Hunsicker progressed through various human resources roles supporting several HAM divisions. In 1999, Hunsicker accepted a position in Japan working in expatriate administration at the Honda Motor Co. New Model Center. In this role, she founded The Buckeye Tutorial, an international program to support the educational needs of Honda expatriate children, grades K-12. In April 2017, Hunsicker took on the position of assistant vice president of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID). In April 2019, she assumed the additional responsibility of leading the Human Resources Division at Honda North America, Inc. Hunsicker serves on the Columbus, Ohio YWCA Board of Directors, the Advisory Board at the Hilliker Y in Bellefontaine, Ohio, the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center Board of Directors, the National Diversity Council Board of Directors, and is a member of The Conference Board Global Diversity & Inclusion Executive Council. Hunsicker graduated from Urbana University with a B.S. in Business Management and later earned the designations of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and certified Diversity and Inclusion Professional through the National Diversity Council and Cornell University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Yvette! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I left college after my freshman year because it was a financial burden on my family. The Honda plant was close to my hometown, and I heard many good things about the company like good pay, benefits, and the opportunity to be promoted from within.
I started my career in the welding department at the auto plant. Things were different then, and being a woman of color in a predominately-male environment provided me with some challenges. I worked hard and company leaders saw the potential in me as I moved into new positions at several different facilities. I had some very important people challenge me to stay in school and finish my degree. I did complete my degree. Ultimately, it helped me transition my career to human resources, and to the leadership role in the Office of Inclusion and Diversity and Human Resources.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I learned of my first leadership assignment, I remember walking out of the meeting only to find my new team waiting for me at my desk. I had no time to process the change, to think about the structure of my team, or even to prepare myself for what I wanted to say. One member of my new team had the contents of his desk in a box and was already asking me where to put his stuff so we could get to work.
I remember thinking, “OK, we are going to learn this together.” It turned out to be my best assignment, and one of my strongest teams.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I began my career at Honda working on the production line at the Marysville Auto Plant, which encompasses 4.3 million square feet. The plant is very large. For several months, I only knew my way from the locker room to my assigned zone. Then one day, I was asked to attend a meeting in another part of the plant. Let’s just say I took a few detours on my way back because I had no idea where I was going and got lost in my own workplace. However, it was a positive experience because I was amazed that there was so much more to the plant — and manufacturing process — that I had been missing.
Can you describe how you or your Honda is making a significant social impact?
Honda strives to be a company society wants to exist, which means creating new value for people through new forms of mobility, while also helping build quality communities where we live and work.
This year, Honda and our 30,000 associates in the U.S. are celebrating our 40th year of manufacturing in the U.S. and our 60th year of doing business in this country. While we celebrate our past, we are also focused on implementing programs and opportunities that will allow us to reach out and help develop the next generation worker — whether that be an engineer, an associate in sales or someone who works in manufacturing.
We also know that to be successful, we need a diverse mix of ideas and innovations, which is why we are proud to support STEM education for junior and high school students, while sponsoring several unique programs supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
It is hard to pinpoint one associate, so let me share a program with you where I think many people have been positively impacted. We sponsor a unique program called the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC).
HCASC is a large-scale academic quiz competition for undergraduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The HCASC tournament has been held once a year since 1989 and has more than 135,000 alumni, who have become successful teachers, engineers, doctors, writers, judges, astronauts and more.
Since its inception, HCASC has awarded more than $9 million in grants to 88 colleges and universities. However, the grants are only one part of this experience. Through the quiz competition, these students gain a community of mentors, friends and coaches that celebrates academic excellence, as well as life-long memories and an important understanding of their own potential.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Focus on the next generation workforce in ways that may be different to past thinking. For example, I believe we have to let our high school students know that manufacturing is a great career. Four-year colleges may not be for everyone and the two-year technical schools have a great future to offer.
- Get young girls excited in engineering. We need a diverse array of ideas to invent, develop and perfect products for the future and this starts with having gender and ethnic representation at the table.
- Remember that it is all right to dream. Honda is a company that is built on the power of dreams. I look at my own career and think of it as a dream come true. Therefore, I think it is critical that we all continue to dream of a greater tomorrow and then work passionately to accomplish that dream.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader is one who influences a group toward achieving a common goal. A leader does not need to perform all the tasks or know every task in detail. They should trust the group and function in a manner that directs employees and peers based on a strategy to meet the business needs. A leader provides the motivation and serves as the director.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Perform work that you enjoy. The personal value outweighs money.
Commitment and hard work pays off.
No one is perfect. Just do your best with what you have.
Look for wins every day that will get you closer to achieving the longer-term goals.
Self-care and having work — life balance are important.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Self-accountability; take responsibility for your own feelings, actions, behavior and life. Assume responsibility for the consequences of your choices and behaviors, both positive and negative outcomes, rather than making excuses or blaming others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do not feel lonely; the entire universe is inside you” — Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
President Barack Obama. I admire so many qualities of his, from his leadership style, professional demeanor, and positive outlook, to his humility, compassion and focus on all families, including his own.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My LinkedIn profile
Honda’s Inclusion and Diversity Twitter handle: @HondaInclusion
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!