Linda Taliaferro's first promotion came from her uncle.
As a newly minted college graduate, Taliaferro was referred to by her mother's brother as the VP.
Now that the Union Area High School graduate is vice president of global quality at Meritor Inc., Meryle Ward continues to advance his niece, calling her the CEO.
"Having a strong family helped give me the vision of where I wanted to be," said the Michigan resident who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a master of business administration from the University of Michigan.
But, family members aren't the only ones to take note of Taliaferro's extensive resume.
In its summer issue, Savoy magazine named her one of 2019's Most Influential Women in Corporate America.
"I'm beyond honored," Taliaferro said in a telephone interview. "I was totally surprised, but it meant the world to me. I don't do what I do for the accolades, but they are wonderful."
Quick to credit her family with helping her succeed, Taliaferro especially noted her mother, New Castle resident Naomi Gatewood, Uncle Meryle and her late uncle Chester Ward, an engineer and corporate executive who inspired her to pursue engineering.
"My mother supported everything I did whether it was playing the organ or being in color guard, she supported me in anything I wanted to do," Taliaferro recalled.
"I think I've always seen myself in this type of role," she continued, remembering as a small child visiting her Uncle Chester when he was a student at Rutgers University and thinking, "I want to do this."
"It's been a long journey, and I certainly didn't get here alone," she said. "That's why I want to help others along their way."
Taliaferro's duties at Meritor, a supplier for the global commercial vehicle industry, include frequent international travel as she oversees quality at 38 corporate sites in 18 countries on five continents. Still, she finds time to support and mentor others, especially women of color, not only at Meritor but through her own career advisory business, The TEE – The Extra Effort LLC.
"I call it getting a seat at the table," Taliaferro said, adding that while climbing the corporate ladder many of her own mentors were white men. "But they cared, and that's what makes the best mentors. It's now my obligation to pay it forward."
Calling mentoring her passion, Taliaferro said the most common problem she sees in among the women she works with is not knowing their worth.
"It's working on building self-confidence," she explained. "When we don't know our value, we don't walk in strength and we allow others to lower our self-esteem."
Saying that she will never tire of help others succeed, Taliaferro said, "It fulfills me and validates what I do, when I get a text, call or email from someone I worked with saying, 'I was able to do X, Y and Z.' I have been given so much, shame on me if I don't pass it along."