Patricia “Patti” Poppe’s combination of knowledge, instinct and ambition led her to positions of increasing responsibility and leadership over her 15-year relationship with General Motors. With her background education in industrial engineering, Poppe rose through a series of leadership roles, eventually managing General Motors’ largest manufacturing plant, Lordstown.
Raised in Jackson, Michigan, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at Purdue University and launched her career in 1990 as an associate-manufacturing engineer with General Motors in Warren, Michigan. Nine months later, General Motors sponsored her return to Purdue for a master’s degree in Industrial/Manufacturing Systems Engineering. When she returned, she was placed at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, where she worked in engineering, production and planning.
Poppe was a member of the first Global Task Team for General Motors. This globally diverse team traveled around the world to learn about lean manufacturing techniques. When assigned to the vice president of Manufacturing at Detroit-Hamtramck as his technical assistant, Poppe organized and ran the general manager’s weekly staff meetings and frequently facilitated conversations between the assembly plant employees and the general manager. She was instrumental in developing the manufacturing performance metrics tracking data month-to-month and year-to-year and driving continuous improvement and innovation into the operation.
Transferred to the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio, Poppe was quickly promoted to an executive position running the body shop. A few months later, she was named general assembly area manager, overseeing 2,500 hourly and 100 salaried employees rotating through three shift schedules. Widely recognized for her leadership, in 2001 she was awarded the Automotive Hall of Fame’s Young Leader in Excellence Award.
Poppe left General Motors in 2005 to work for DTE Energy Corporation, first as the director of Enterprise Performance Excellence, later as director of North Region Power Plants. In 2011, she moved to Consumers Energy Company, and by 2016, she was named president, the first female to hold the title in the company’s 129-year history. In 2021, she was named CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric Company.