AutomotiveWoman Wednesday

We profile women who have achieved success in automotive and motorsports with integrity, passion and sheer determination. These women define the term AutomotiveWoman.

We are automotive leaders.
We are motorsport professionals.
We are women inspiring the next generation.

fastlane

Who Am I: Alba Lynnette Colon
Company: Hendrick Motorsports
Current Position: Director of Competition Systems
Years at Current Position: 3.5 years
Location: Concord, North Carolina, USA

BIO

In January 2018, decorated auto racing engineer Alba Colón joined Hendrick Motorsports as director of competition systems. She works to enhance capabilities that directly support at-track competition for the 13-time NASCAR Cup Series champions with responsibility for critical areas including simulation; data acquisition; analytics and communication technologies; and research and development.

Long regarded as one of the most influential women in NASCAR, Colón came to Hendrick Motorsports after a well-chronicled career with General Motors that spanned more than two decades. While at GM, she served as the NASCAR Cup Series program manager for the Chevrolet brand from 2001 until 2017. Under Colón’s charge, Chevrolet was the most dominant manufacturer in the NASCAR Cup Series, amassing 286 race wins, 12 driver championships and 14 manufacturer titles.

Learn more about Hendrick Motorsports: https://www.hendrickmotorsports.com

Career

Describe a typical day at work.

“Not every day is the same. Never! What is a fact is that we work between six to seven days every week. I normally wake up between 4:45 and 5 a.m. and arrive at work and ready at my desk between 6:15 and 6:30. We have a standing production meeting at 7:15 a.m. The days focus on supporting our teams before, during and after the races. Support means everything from providing what is needed during the event, analyzing data afterward and continuous communication with my team and our crew chiefs, race engineers, drivers, leadership and other teammates. We develop simulations, test and keep our tools in top shape to constantly communicate with our sanctioning body (NASCAR), manufacturer (General Motors), suppliers and sponsors.

“Meetings are part of the job. Another key aspect is to keep up to date with what is happening in our shop areas where our team prepares the vehicles and engines. That is the heart of our business! You can’t succeed if you don’t understand your product.

“The day at the office ends when the job is done. Sometimes it’s late, but that’s what it takes to be the best team in the business.”

Describe a current job-related responsibility which keeps you on your toes, daily.

“Making sure we have all the latest information and every piece of data our teams need to do their jobs before, during and after a race. I love that part of my job where we are always thinking ahead and finding ways to do every task better and try to foresee what they will need.”

As a woman, tell us the most challenging hurdle you’ve had to overcome while climbing the professional ladder? 

“There have been many hurdles, but I believe we have to continue working on eliminating gender bias. Educating others on how hurtful and closed-minded it is, is the first step. Many years ago, I was questioned if I could do a job because I was too nice of a person and a woman. We should never confuse kindness and someone’s gender with weakness. Women are as capable as men to do the same jobs and be very successful at them.”

When met with discouragement, how do stay focused and/or prevail?

“It may sound like a cliché, but the first thing I do is breathe and understand that the situation I am going through shall pass. Discouragement is not forever. When I’m discouraged, I remember that everything is cyclical, and I tend to concentrate and focus on the bigger picture and don’t let the discouragement define me. The highs are never too high, and the lows are never too low. It is a mindset. Look at the positive and learn.”

Being assertive is considered an asset in business.  As a woman, how do you balance the need to be your own champion with the stigma associated with the term, when it’s applied to women?

“It’s a very fine line that needs to be handled delicately at times. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma that if a woman is strong or comes along as strong by her behavior, she is seen as difficult. Of course, men are not viewed in the same way. I have learned to be very comfortable in my own skin and not to let that stigma bother me. I believe in clear communication between parties and in being respectful and considerate to the point of view of others. Communication is key to success.”

Someone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. What was your one BIG professional mistake, and what did you learn?

“I definitely believe that you learn more from failing and committing mistakes than succeeding. I will classify my biggest mistake as not taking certain risks earlier in my career due to lack of confidence and trying to please others. You will never advance if you don’t take calculated risks and believe in what you are doing.”

Career defining moment, to-date. 

“Two defining moments in my career. First, becoming the NASCAR Cup Series program manager for General Motors in 2001. Second, to leave GM and shift my career to Hendrick Motorsports as director of competition systems in 2018. Both jobs are motor sports-related, but I never realized how different they would be.”  

Words of wisdom you received from a mentor; you’d like to pay forward?

“‘Take a risk and dream bigger! Dreams change, and it is OK to go in other directions in life.’ Very wise words from my favorite college professor. I still call him and ask for advice.”

If you switched career paths tomorrow, what would you do?  

“I love what I do, so I am in the right place. But since I was a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut.  Space tourism is in my near future, definitely. I still hope to get my astronaut wings!”

What piece of advice would you share with women keen to follow in your footsteps?

“Education is the key to succeed. A never-give-up attitude is needed every single day. Confidence in knowing you belong. Speak up, because your ideas count. And keep learning every single day.”

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years from now? 

“I want to continue growing the sport of NASCAR and continue making Hendrick Motorsports the most successful racing franchise in the world. I like to dream big!”

Famous words or motto you live by:

“La gente exitosa siempre busca la oportunidad de ayudar a los demás. La gente que fracasa, siempre pregunta: ‘Y yo que gano?’

“Successful people always look for the opportunity to help others. People who fail always ask: ‘And what do I win?’”

Fill in the blank:

“I came. I saw. I left the sport in a better place by opening doors to others.”

Me Unfiltered

Morning person, or night owl?

“Oh, definitely morning person. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m., so morning person for sure. It’s unbelievable how much you can get done by 9 a.m.”

Favorite workout, or best way to blow off steam?

“The stationary bike. I really like to use it a lot.”

What’s on your music playlist at the moment? 

“A little bit of everything and in different languages. Music can transform you. I don’t discriminate when it comes to music. If I like it, I get it. So get ready for some Frank Sinatra, The Four Seasons, Vivaldi, Puccini, Justin Timberlake to Ricky Martin, Pitbull, and the list keeps going.”

Netflix & chill or a good book?

“Netflix. That’s my guilty pleasure, for sure! But I grew up around books. I learned the love for reading from my dad and the librarian (Ms. Isla) from my elementary school.”

Hobbies outside of work?

“I love to travel, and I am looking forward to travel this year now that we are all going back to normality. My favorite places to travel are Puerto Rico, where I grew up, and Bonaire, one of my favorite spots in the world. When I have time, I like to bake and work around the house on the 100 projects I have to get done that never seem to get done.”

Best motorsport documentary or movie of all time. Days of Thunder. Rush. Ford vs Ferrari. Other?

“That’s a tough question. If you know the background of how ‘Days of Thunder’ was filmed, it has a very deep-rooted connection to our company (Hendrick Motorsports), but every time I watch ‘Ford vs. Ferrari’ I get very inspired. It reminds me the beauty of racing and passion we all feel for what we do here, plus everything you do to make a dream a reality.”

Name a hidden talent? 

“Does a load of patience count as a hidden talent? Plus, I can bake a very good ‘Flan de Queso,’ always requested at family get-togethers.”

If you won the lottery, what’s the first extravagant gift you’d purchase yourself?

“A little house in Bonaire and many scholarships to children with low-income resources. Education is key for the world to succeed. Plus, to help and serve others is way more gratifying than buying a gift to yourself.”

Most embarrassing moment?

“I have a long list, and many too embarrassing to mention, but when I arrived in this country, there were many times when I had awkward moments because of my pronunciation of some English language words. For instance, if you do not pronounce the word ‘sheet’ correctly, it can be really embarrassing! Plus, it’s not the way I was raised to speak.”

Name a pet peeve: 

“People who don’t give 100% in what they do. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, whether it be your work, your hobbies or whatever you choose to do. Do it all the way.”

Celebrity Crush:

“The list is too long to name!”

Name someone famous who would play you in a movie: 

“Jessica Alba or Jennifer Lopez! Both very strong, accomplished and with a Latina heritage!”

If you could invite only three people to dinner, who would they be and what topic would you discuss?

“Pope Francis, (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel and (activist) Greta Thunberg. We will discuss a little bit of everything, especially how to make the world better. When can we arrange this meeting?”

Charities or Causes you support: 

“I have several, but I support mainly the SAE Foundation. I am very passionate about STEM-related activities and providing children the tools to fall in love with math, science, technology and engineering. My other passion is to support my alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, by being very active on several advisory boards and supporting student projects.”

How do we connect with you online?

“My Twitter account is @ChevyChica.”

Photos (credit: Hendrick Motorsports)