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Driving Force: Indian American Aruna Anand Named President and CEO of Continental Automotive, North America

Driving Force: Indian American Aruna Anand Named President and CEO of Continental Automotive, North America

  • She joined the company in 1997 as an intern, and rose through the ranks, and was most recently head of Architecture and Networking.

Growing up in India, owning a car was more of an aspiration for Aruna Anand, for one could count the number of times she traveled in a car. When she came to Michigan to pursue her master’s in computer science at Oakland University, she “dropped” off her resume at the Siemens Automotive booth at the Society of Automotive Engineers show and landed the job of an intern. Thus began her journey in a mostly male-dominated where she rose through the ranks.

This week, the Indian American was named president and chief executive officer of Continental’s automotive group sector in North America, effective Dec. 1, the technology company announced. She will also retain her current role as head of the Architecture and Networking business in the North American sector. 

She joined the company in 1997 as an intern to develop software for Chrysler’s engine management systems, she told Automotive News, a weekly newspaper for the automotive industry. She subsequently took a full-time job after she earned her degree. “When I joined, I had no experience,” Anand told the weekly. “I needed my first break, and they gave me a chance. I had the right mentors, and they helped me to be successful.”

She rose through the ranks, and in 2013 her unit won an Automotive News PACE Award for designing an innovative tire pressure monitor. She was the head of software for Gasoline Engine and Transmissions Systems for the Electronic Controls business unit within the company’s Powertrain division. She also led the Wireless Product Group Engineering within the Connected Car Networking business unit of Continental’s Vehicle Networking and Information business area. Before being named as the head of Architecture and Networking, Anand was responsible for leading Continental Engineering Services, an independently operating business unit that offers comprehensive engineering services.

In the company press release, Anand called it an honor to be selected in the new role. “I look forward to leading our talented team toward a bright future and providing our customers with leading technological solutions,” she said. 

Despite its reputation as a career for men, Anand believes gender barriers in the software and automotive industry “are breaking down … There is less and less [bias] around.”

According to Automotive Group CEO Nikolai Setzer, Anand “brings an outstanding combination of experience and talent to the position.” Describing her as “a respected leader,” Setzer said Anand is “a technical expert in many areas that are the focus of our future growth.” Her “dedication to our customers and our employees will help guide the success of Continental in the important North American market,” he added.

Speaking about her challenges, she told Automotive News in an earlier interview that she finds it hard “how to act and how to make it known assertively that I am ready and willing and able to progress to the next step in my career.” She also struggles with how to “showcase her contributions, her achievements, “without looking like a headline grabber.”

Despite its reputation as a career for men, Anand believes gender barriers in the software and automotive industry “are breaking down,” she told Automotive News. “There is less and less [bias] around,” she said. “If you work hard, you can show what you’re capable of, and the rest takes care of itself.” 

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She also has three ideas that need to be implemented to encourage women to enter the auto industry. “We need to do a better job explaining all the things happening in the industry, how exciting it is to be in this technology transformation and all the roles it is opening up,” she told Automotive News. “We need to be talking more and more about this to dispel the myth that it is a low-technology, male-dominated environment. Doing that would attract more talent.” 

She urged the need to have “strong diversity of thought in high-level management positions, not just in gender, but in age, experience, gender, ethnicity, background.” She also stressed the need for women “to work on ourselves,” and be “more confident to promote ourselves.”

Anand earned her master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Oakland University and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Anna University in Chennai.  

In 2020, she was recognized by Automotive News as one of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Automotive industry. In 2018, she was honored with the prestigious Automotive News Rising Star award. She was also recently recognized at the Women of Color Awards Gala and received the Professional Achievement in Industry award

She lives in suburban Detroit with her husband and two kids. To relax, she bikes and practices yoga, and she also mentors young women within Continental, per Automotive News. She also has organized outreach programs for science and math in Detroit schools.

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