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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

How This Former Racecar Driver Is Helping GM Build the Next Generation of EVs

Keely Bosn, a vehicle and technology strategy manager at GM
Keely Bosn, a vehicle and technology strategy manager at GM.
| Courtesy of GM

Some kids dream of becoming racecar drivers, but few actually achieve that goal. And then there’s Keely Bosn, who became a pro behind the wheel at the young age of 12 thanks to a childhood spent in racing shops and at the track.

“I’m an only child to a father who has spent his entire life in the racing industry, so you could say I never really had much of a choice,” she says. “Once I was big enough, my father put me in a sprint car and I spent several years racing in the Midwest.”

That experience not only solidified her love of cars, but also gave her the confidence she’d need for future success in her career, which has included working as an engineer at GM and a logistics officer in the Navy. Today, Bosn is a vehicle and technology strategy manager at GM, where she’s part of a team that is spearheading the electric vehicle revolution.

“I can draw a straight line from my time racing cars to what I’m doing with GM today,” Bosn says. “My career journey has always been rooted in a love for all things automotive.”

Here, she talks about the important ways GM supports veterans, what women can do to succeed in male-dominiated industries, and the two-tone Corvette she’d love to take for a spin.

Tell us about your career journey, including why you joined the Navy and what inspired you to pursue a civilian career as a strategy manager.

I joined the Navy because I wanted to do my part with national service and find a career that would challenge me physically and mentally. That desire, combined with my nautical and automotive interest, made the Navy a great fit. I spent seven years as a logistics officer—nearly half of those in direct support of Seal Teams 5 and 7 based in Coronado, CA. My experiences in the Navy were life-changing and allowed me to pivot into pursuing my MBA. And now at GM, I’ve been able to pair my leadership skills with my love for automotive in my new role as a strategy manager.

You previously worked at GM twice—first as an engineer before joining the Navy and again as an intern while earning your MBA. What was it about the company that made you want to pursue a career there full-time?

It wasn’t the same thing each time. As a young co-op engineer, I wanted to work on the Corvette race team and get as close as I could to motorsports. As an MBA candidate years later, the automotive industry was in the midst of a massive shift toward battery electric vehicles (BEV) and mobility. I was also pursuing a second master’s degree at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.

Being a driver of solutions is important to me and GM gave me that opportunity. With the company’s goal of becoming 100% EV, I felt that I had the right expertise and passion to hit the ground running and make a difference in driving EV adoption.

How does GM support veterans such as yourself? In what ways did the company help you transition smoothly into a civilian role?

GM gave me a chance after leaving the Navy. That’s important because a veteran’s capabilities are not always easily understood and translated to the civilian workforce. It often requires trust and imagination by employers. While I did not have a traditional resume with the normal early career functional experiences, GM was willing to see the strengths I did possess—and that’s no small thing. After being hired, the fellowship and support of other veterans at GM has been second to none. Our veterans employee resource group has provided an emotional support net of like-minded individuals who continuously offer their time and mentorship.

What are you responsible for in your current role?

I’m on the forefront of vehicle decisions, and can influence the company’s future portfolio of offerings while accelerating us towards being all-electric. We are the ones who take vehicles from concept to reality by working cross-functionally with teams like design, engineering, finance, and marketing to build a market opportunity for each program. I lead teams that are both cross-functional and global, which means relationship building is key. While these relationships can take years to build, GM has a “one team” mentality to guide us all towards our ultimate mission of achieving zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.

What skills did you develop from being in the Navy that still apply in your current position?

I learned how to be an exceptional teammate. This requires both excellent leadership skills as well as the ability to follow when necessary—with the latter often being overlooked or misunderstood—and knowing when to employ each. As a planning manager, I have to know when a group needs leadership or when someone needs support after making the right decision. The Navy especially taught me the difference between a good leader and a great one. It showed me that empathy and compassion are strengths I can use to cultivate an inclusive work environment for others.

You’ve held leadership roles in various male-dominated fields. What has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

Quite honestly, I’ve had experiences that run the gamut while working in motorsports, engineering, and automotive. But, by and large, all direct reports regardless of gender want the same thing from a leader: competence and authenticity. While nothing is certain, I’ve found focusing on providing those two things for my team members produces the best interpersonal outcomes. And in instances when it doesn’t, I have peace knowing I controlled what I could control.

What advice do you have for other women who are working towards achieving leadership roles?

Encourage other women—and do it often. Provide both positive and negative feedback to build each other up. And, most importantly, be genuine. There will always be a small subset of people who don’t want you to succeed. Ignore them because you will never win them over. It’s not worth the time and energy to try to please everyone or make everyone like you. Focus your time on the remaining 90% of people who know what it means to be exceptional teammates. Set the example for how to be a great follower, and they will naturally want to follow you when your opportunity for leadership presents itself.

If you could own any car past or present, what would it be and why?

There’s nothing like your first car, and the feeling of freedom and autonomy that comes with turning 16 and being handed the keys. In my case, it was a 1981 two-tone blue and silver Corvette. It would be amazing to be able to track it down and own it again.

What show, movie, book, or podcast has impacted your life recently, and in what way?

I recently read Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being, which changed my perspective on how and where I inject creativity into my life and work. Corporate roles and large organizations are prone to process-driven approaches. It’s easy to lose the ability to think outside of the box. The automotive industry is going through a once-in-100-year transformation, and I feel it’s more important than ever to focus on finding creative solutions. This book served as a simple reminder on how to open my mind to think more creatively and guide others to do the same.