08/23/2014 10:12 am ET Updated Oct 23, 2014

Women in Business Q&A: Sandra Rowland, Vice President, Corporate Development and Investor Relations, HARMAN

In June 2013, Sandra E. Rowland was named Vice President, Corporate Development and Investor Relations. She leads the teams responsible for Corporate Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions and Investor Relations. Sandra joined HARMAN in October 2012.

Prior to joining HARMAN, Sandra was a Vice President in the Corporate Finance Group at Eastman Kodak Company. She held assignments of increasing responsibility including Controller of the Consumer Segment, Director of Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis, Assistant Treasurer, Director of Investor Relations, and Chief Financial Officer of the Commercial Segment. Prior to joining Kodak, Sandra was a manager in the Audit and Business Advisory practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, were she worked primarily with technology companies.

Sandra graduated from the Lafayette College with a BA in Economics and Business, and she holds an MBA from the University of Rochester's William E. Simon Graduate School of Business. She is also Certified Public Accountant.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was fortunate to have been born the year before Title IX was passed and so I was provided the opportunity to get involved with competitive athletics from elementary school to the college levels. These experiences have had a significant impact on my leadership style today because it's in sports that I learned two important lessons - the power of teamwork and how to compete: to set high goals and work extremely hard to meet or exceed those targets.

How did your previous employment experience aid your position at HARMAN?
I have worked in financial roles for more than 20 years. Strong technical competence has been essential in all of the positions I've held, including HARMAN. I also think the opportunities I've had to lead strategic initiatives and the confidence I've gained from working in different industries and cultures, on teams with different styles and approaches, have helped me in acclimating to the fast-paced, diverse and entrepreneurial culture of HARMAN.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
To be honest, this is a significant challenge for me becauseI am the very proud mother of two young daughters and I also am very passionateabout and enjoy the work I do. There are periods of time that I think I've figured it out. Recently, I pulled off an awesome pancake breakfast birthday party for my 5-year-old in the midst of earnings and a large acquisition. I felt great. Other times, there are stretches when the balance goes off-track. Either way, when I am at work, I try to focus 100% on work and when I am home I also try to be in the moment and focus on my family. I also am fortunate to have an extremely supportive husband whomore than pitches in when the balance goes off-track.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at HARMAN?
Although I've been at HARMAN for just 18 months, this list could be quite long! I have been particularly energized in my role setting our investment thesis, bringing it to life and beingrewardedfor it by the investment community. One challenge I've faced centers around the need to quickly - and deeply - understand HARMAN's automotive and audio industries as well as the technologies that differentiate HARMAN from our competition. It's been a bit like building a boat while at sea. We're constantly learning and always doing at HARMAN.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in the audio or automotive industry?
I would just say to enter an industry that interests you and don't focus on what the gender demographics may tell you. In my experience, there's always room for qualified, motivated and enthusiastic people. In fact, industries that are under-indexed from a gender diversity stand-point are often the one's that can benefit the most from a different perspective. Women approach problems differently and may offer different thinking. More than half of headphones are purchased by women and the majority of new cars are purchased by women. Who better to influence the business, design and marketing than women?

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
In early career positions, women and men are starting out in almost equal numbers. In fact, women are obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees at a higher rate than men. However, the ratio shifts dramatically the higher you go in an organization. We are losing too many women from the workplace mid-career for a number of reasons, often times to raise a family. We need to find more ways to plug this leak so women don't feel work and family are mutually exclusive. We are losing too much experience, knowledge and insight.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
There are parts of the movement that really resonate with me. In particular, not long after I had my first daughter, I was offered a break-through promotion working closely with the CEO and CFO on a daily basis and offering significant board exposure. Many of my peers were campaigning for the opportunity, and I wondered if it was the right time for me. I also recognized that it wasn't the kind of opportunity that comes along every day, and I decided I would find a way to make it work. It was clearly the right decision and served as a spring board for the position I hold today.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've benefited from many role models and a few key mentors who also served as influential sponsors for me. It's so valuable to learn from the experiences and perspectives of people you trust and admire. In the same way, I'm quick to offer time to young people and peers who want a different view point. We're all in this together.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many female leaders I admire. I've been incredibly impressed with the women who serve on HARMAN's Board of Directors. Ann Korologos served as the Secretary of Labor under President Reagan and I appreciated the insights she shared during HARMAN Women's Network speaker series. She shared great advice, for instance, when someone wants to hire you and you're not totally sure what the job entails, don't let that stop you. Have the attitude 'I can do that.' Closer to home, I remember the days when my mother was working full-time, working on her master's degree, and raising my sister and me.

What are your hopes for the future of HARMAN?
I am excited to be a part of building HARMAN with such a talented team. I derive a lot of satisfaction in strengthening the brand and growing the company so we can hire more people, serve more customers, reach more consumers and return value for our shareholders. HARMAN is an extremely innovative company with a strong pipeline of groundbreaking ideas in audio, video and infotainment. While our brands are iconic, in many ways, we're just getting started, and I'm energized every day to contribute to our mission.