"And he said, 'Well, who would that be?'
"And I said, 'Well, that would be me.'
"And he said, 'You?' "
Global guts: Among other things, the vice president was concerned that Gulyas would not want to leave the dream house that she and her husband, Ed, had just built on a creek-side spread in Chester County. Besides that, he said, DuPont would not be able to get Ed a work permit abroad. "I said, 'That's my problem, not yours,' " Gulyas said. "And three months later, we were on our way to Switzerland."
Euro star: "Working overseas catapulted my career and changed my life," Gulyas said. She held the Swiss post for 21/2 years, ran a factory in Belgium for 21/2 years, then returned stateside to serve as executive assistant to then-chief executive officer Ed Woolard - at Woolard's request.
From there, she was assigned to run larger and larger DuPont business units, including the $1 billion Kevlar group (of bulletproof-vest fame) and the $3 billion electronics unit. The performance-materials group that she now runs is one of DuPont's two largest divisions - "neck-and-neck with coatings and colors," she said.
In 2006, Gulyas was named one of Fortune magazine's 50 most powerful women in business. She also is one of several high-level executives featured in a global-business handbook for women, Get Ahead by Going Abroad.
As the world turns - into consumers: Double-digit economic growth in countries such as China and India is "a dynamic that's changing the world," Gulyas said. Her group has seen its foreign sales jump from 54 percent of the group's total in 2003 to an expected 64 percent in 2008.
Another sphere she has conquered: the golf ball. Along with her business accolades, Gulyas also has been named one of the "50 most powerful women who play" by the Golf Digest Web site Golfforwomen.com, which puts her handicap at 15.3.
A mushroom-capital coincidence: Gulyas lives in Kennett Square, which also happens to be the hometown of Kraft Foods Inc. senior vice president and Get Ahead by Going Abroad coauthor Perry Yeatman.
Gulyas did not meet Yeatman until six months after the book was under way, at which point she realized that the two global-power players shared a Chester County connection.
As it turns out, "My husband plays golf with Perry's dad," Gulyas said. "When I found out she was from Kennett Square, I was like, 'I think I know your parents.' "
Big idea she wishes she'd had. "Wow! Hmmm. That's a hard question," she said. "I think the big idea that I did have, back in 1987, was that it's a big world and I need to understand it better."