By Christy Wallace
Vicki Drake grew up and lived in Texas until she attended Louisiana Tech University to major in accounting. While pursuing her degree, her professor reached out to her to tell her about a new program in management Information. He told her it involved quantitative analysis, and her interest was piqued. She took a few classes to get a feel for it and ended up changing her major to management, information systems.
After graduation Vicki started working as a Programmer in Software Development for a large manufacturing company. There, she was able to work on modifying their Enterprise Resource Planning system and work on other projects that helped prepare her for her chosen career path in information technology.
A few years later, when her husband, Gene, was transferred to Georgia, they packed up their few belongings and their then 5-month old baby, Mason, and made the move to Newnan, GA. Vicki started working for Panasonic Automotive in Peachtree City as a Jr. Systems Analyst, but was asked to be an IT Manager only a few short years later, which was quite an achievement. At that time, there were not many women leaders in the industry. “I told my VP of Operations I didn’t think I was ready for the role, that I should stay in my current role for a couple more years.” But he told her when there was an opportunity, she needed to take it. And so she did.
Vicki has been with Panasonic Automotive for 26 years and has made her way up through the company with tremendous success. “What do I love about my job? I love the people. I love that we have the opportunity to be able to expose ourselves to so many different parts of the business and technologies. There’s so much opportunity where I work, and there’s always so much hope. It’s never un-interesting, it’s never dull. With Panasonic Automotive and the role that I play, I think I’m able to be exposed to business processes and how the business works and the strategy around that, as well the technology side. That’s what I love. I enjoy people, but I really enjoy the business drivers and the strategy around what happens next.”
When asked about any personal and professional challenges throughout her career, there was no hesitation: “Work/life balance.” Having a family and working full time provides many challenges. She went on to say, “that’s one of the things that’s amazing about Panasonic, they have worked on changing the culture and putting the emphasis on work/life balance.” When the financial and economic crisis hit in 2008, that was the toughest professional challenge she had faced. She knew people’s lives were being affected, her friends, co-workers. “You’re figuring out how to keep things viable and be positive while knowing it’s not positive for anybody.”
Vicki has lived in Peachtree City for 20 years and loves spending time with her husband of 33 years, Gene, whom she met while attending LTU, and their two sons, Mason and Reagan, daughter-in-law Mallory and their two puppies (a Miniature Schnauzer and an Airedale Terrier). They are a big Auburn University family, as both of her sons attended there, and they love spending time at their house on Lake Martin, as well as attending games every chance they get.