Ileana Simplicean is living the dream she had for herself when she was a child. Born in Romania and of Italian ancestry, Simplicean moved to the United States via Italy and Germany as a child. From a young age she wanted an international career. Today, as senior vice president and general counsel for Nexteer Automotive Corporation, a first-tier supplier of steering and driveline products for the automotive industry, the world is her office. She talks to Profile about how her international background has proven the perfect training for her current career.
Simplicean earns a joint BA from the University of Michigan and the University of Nice
Earns a joint JD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and the University of Paris I (Pantheon Sorbonne) in Paris, France
Simplicean beings her law career in private practice at several firms, including the international law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Joins Delphi Automotive Corporation as senior corporate counsel at Delphi’s EMEA headquarters in Paris
Joins Nexteer Automotive Corporation as senior vice president and general counsel
What drew you to the legal field?
Simplicean: I’ve always wanted to do deals on a global dimension. I had worked in purchasing and sales for several companies and found I enjoyed drafting and reviewing agreements. I decided that pursuing a law degree would use my writing skills and enhance my career.
Why did you take the bar exam in both the United States and France?
Simplicean: Nothing in my life has been by chance. I knew there were steps I had to take to realize my dream. I had always wanted to work and live in Paris. Taking the bar exam in New York would give me the highest value internationally because there is reciprocity between the US and certain countries in Europe, including France. I was able to practice law in France for several years before taking the Paris bar.
Why is working on an international level so important to you?
Simplicean: The global aspect makes me thrive; it’s the air that I breathe. I love to travel, and I love getting to know people of different cultures. I speak six languages … on a good day! English, French, Romanian, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. As a teenager, I traveled throughout Europe. And while I was in high school, my family sponsored exchange students from all around the world.
What drew you to the automotive field?
Simplicean: Fate, because I did everything to run away from it. I grew up in an automotive family. My grandfather was founder and CEO of a tier-one auto supplier in Romania. My father was an engineer for Ford and GM. Through my father’s connections, I could have easily worked at Ford. But when my father arranged for me to have an interview there, I told them that I wanted to work for Chanel in Paris. I moved to Paris and worked in private practice. While working at the international law firm of Paul, Weiss in their Paris office, a headhunter approached me about a job at Delphi [a supplier of electronics and technologies for the automotive industry]. I wasn’t really interested, but agreed to go. After meeting with the executives [Logan Robinson, general counsel, and Bobby Katz, European general counsel] and learning more about the global aspects of the automotive industry, I knew it was a perfect fit. Now, I can’t see myself in any other industry. I tried very hard to run away from it, but my family now laughs and tells me, you can’t run from your fate.
What’s the best part about your career at Nexteer?
Simplicean: The global aspects. Besides Nexteer’s global operations, we have a totally international management team. The CEO is Chinese, the president is French, the CFO is American, a divisional COO is Mexican, and I am a citizen of the world. At Delphi, I had European responsibility. My current position gives me global responsibility. I deal with issues from Poland to China to Mexico. It’s extremely interesting. Michigan is a hub for me; it’s my base. But I really have the world at my feet. One day, I’m in Beijing. Another, I’m in Hong Kong. And another, I’m in Paris.This job is a combination of everything I know and love. It’s my goal to make Nexteer the leading high-tech, tier-one steering and driveline supplier in the world, and all of my efforts are focused on that.