Liz Door became a leader at two iconic American companies through her global purchasing and supply chain expertise. Five years ago, she expanded her technical focus to become a cross-functional business executive by joining Whirlpool Corporation as Vice President, Global Strategic Sourcing for the North American Region.
Liz and her team are responsible for billions of dollars in annual purchases that support Whirlpool North America, including components purchases (e.g., motors, metal, and harnesses) and purchases in other goods and services (e.g., advertising agency support). They work with internal business partners in engineering, marketing, information technology, and beyond to find and manage external suppliers that meet their cost, quality, and other business needs.
Liz ultimately oversees about 20,000 components, 1,000 external suppliers, and 400 sourcing team members. “I enjoy my work because it’s very measurable—that’s what attracted me to working in this space and it’s why I’ve stayed,” she said. “In the supply chain field, you see results. You impact the revenue through delivering great product, as well as the business’ value proposition through productivity.”
TAKING A REWARDING RISK
While Liz is not new to work of this scope or scale, joining Whirlpool Corporation was a chance to lead at a different level and collaborate closely with more aspects of the business.
She’s a member of Whirlpool Corporation’s North American business leadership team, reporting to its President, Joseph Liotine, along with legal, human resources, marketing, and other executives. Liz also reports to the Senior Vice President of Global Strategic Sourcing, John Miller.
Prior to this role, she worked at General Motors Corporation (GM) for 15 years, where she held various positions in the Global Purchasing and Supply Chain Function.
“I’ve been fortunate for both opportunities—they are great, American iconic companies,” she said. “It was a big risk to leave GM and move my family. I was doing well there.”
At GM, her primary business partner was engineering, so it was a more technical role. “The opportunity at Whirlpool Corporation is broader: it enables me to sit on a business team, touch all of the functional areas, and work with so many great people,” Liz added.
BUILDING HER BUSINESS ACUMEN
Liz’s career started in package engineering, her undergraduate major at Michigan State University. She later shifted to supply chain work to get closer to the product—and business results.
About seven years into her tenure at GM, Liz became Staff Assistant to a GM executive. She largely led teams within her functional specialty prior to that time, but this role challenged her with many strategic projects. “It was a breakout role for me,” Liz said. “It helped me develop my business acumen and toughness, and identify the leadership behaviors I wanted to assimilate.”
It also enabled her to identify skill gaps, inspiring her to pursue an executive MBA at Michigan State University. “My MBA helped me hone my business acumen and become a better business leader,” she added.
Her tip for others considering an executive MBA is to network with classmates, even though working while going to school is “a real challenge.” She explained: “In hindsight, I would’ve spent more time fostering those relationships. You can establish diverse, long-term connections and conduct benchmarking with them.”
PERSONAL BUSINESS LESSONS
Liz also shares a number of big-picture business lessons that can benefit other women:
- Focus on the job at hand, not gender gaps. “Develop mastery and be your best. You need to do that to be successful in business, regardless of gender.”
- Take the tough assignments. “I always have and encourage my team to do the same. It’s OK to fail. It only makes you a stronger leader.”
- Be fact-based, deliver what you promise, and ensure you can measure your performance. “Those things immediately build credibility. If you’re trying to influence someone, your work needs to be founded in fact. How do you know where you are—or where you should go—if you can’t measure it?”
- Maximize your time with mentors by preparing before you connect. “I wouldn’t be where I am without people who believed in me. If you give mentors advance notice about what you want to cover before meetings, everyone gets the most out of the relationship.”
- Women face unique challenges, but you’re in the driver’s seat with your career. “Don’t focus on what happens to you—make choices about how you react and respond.”
HER SUPPORT NETWORKS
In reflecting on the keys to her success, Liz acknowledged a range of professional and personal support systems.
At Whirlpool Corporation, she’s involved in the Women’s Network, which offers “career lunch and learns” that have spotlighted her function as part of the professional development pillar.
Personally, she’s a proud wife and the mother of two children in elementary school. Eight years ago, she and her husband decided that he would stay at home full-time to support their family. “Behind every successful business professional, there’s a strong support network,” she said. “Mine is led by my husband.”
They also decided that they want their children to learn another language. When Liz joined Whirlpool Corporation she discovered an outreach program called Bridge to China, which offers programs for families in her area. Now, their children are learning to speak Chinese, and this inspired Liz to get involved in Whirlpool Corporation’s Asian Network as well.
This unique personal interest reinforces what she’s learned leading teams across geographic borders and cultures—and why she’s so effective: “Stay curious and educate yourself. Learn about cultures and adapt your style. You have to cultivate relationships.”