Harman credits the positive path she has followed in the high-performance consumer electronics arena in part to the example of a few key individuals in her life. “Clearly, my mentors include my father,” she says. “A view he held that was powerfully influential for me was that this is a business about people who want to buy or own our products; it’s not about us. It’s about understanding the ways in which times change, and the way people want to live and to interact with entertainment and music and movies—and how environments change and how people find themselves in those environments. And it’s our responsibility to start with that, and to always be honest about that. I think that philosophy is what’s allowed this business to reinvent itself several times over its 50-year history. For me, frankly, to come to work 21 years later still feeling like a rookie is amazing.”
Harman, despite her company responsibilities, has managed to carve out some niches in her schedule to devote to outside interests. One thing she has found time for over the last five years is an organization called ACCION New York, which she says is the country’s largest micro-lender; she is its vice chairman. “It’s a place where I get to exercise what I’ve learned about business to create opportunities for women and minorities,” she explains, “and to develop serious programs for ending poverty.”
Extracurricular activities aside, she says she is still excited about the industry in which she continues to participate—despite some of the obstacles that fuel its dynamism. “So much has changed over the years,” she observes. “Technology has created a very different relationship for many people with content of all types. It’s exciting for me to see the change in society that has created an opportunity for us to have a good business, and that’s the stuff that keeps this a healthy and profitable organization—along with our willingness to accept new things as opportunities rather than as frustrations.