SHE LEADS – with Emily Spence

Job Title

Engineering Manager, Cox Automotive

What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t worry too much if you don’t get it on the first try. If you never take a risk or push yourself to learn and do more, you’ll never fail but you’ll never grow either.

What was your major in college and how did you get to the position you are in today?

I was a graphic design major, but I always had an interest in software development and often did it on the side. I took the leap to make a career change (I was a financial aid counselor at a college) and moved to engineering full-time and never looked back. I transitioned from a Software Engineer to a Product Owner, and then to an Engineering Manager.

What was your inspiration and what helped you become successful? How do you define success?

I didn’t want to look back on my life and have regrets because I never tried to follow my dream.   I define success as any experience where I learn. What’s helped me become successful is letting go of the need to always be right and opening myself to what others have to teach me.

How do you balance your work and personal life? Often times one has more importance, and we’re curious to know how you’ve handled the balance.

I don’t know that I successfully balance work and life so much as I teeter on either side of the line. But that’s OK. When I notice I’m getting too far from the center, I course correct. That usually looks like setting some boundaries around how often/when I do work.

What is your favorite quote?

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself”  ― Amy Poehler

What’s your favorite part of your job and why?

I love making connections between people and helping them reach their goals.

What is your favorite hobby?

I don’t have one favorite hobby. I like to sail, hike, spend time with people I love, and cook.

What advice do you want to give the next generation of women leaders?

Go for it.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is knowing when to step to the front and when to follow. It’s not just about forging fearlessly ahead; it’s about supporting people too.

What’s your advice on mentoring?

Mentor when and where you can. It’s an opportunity to learn about your style of leadership while helping someone grow.  Look for a mentor who is where you want to be. Don’t think just because you’ve landed your dream job, you no longer need a mentor. I’ve had various mentors most of my professional life, and it’s been invaluable.

What’s your favorite ice cream?


Is there any other information that you think Girl Talk members would benefit from?

Support the women around you. Helping someone’s light shine doesn’t diminish your own; it strengthens your glow.