Niekamp began her career with General Motors, progressing through production supervisory and engineering positions with the Delco Moraine division. She moved to France as resident controller, wheel brake systems, and then returned to the U.S. in 1989 as plant manager, anti-lock braking systems, Delco Moraine division.
In 1990, Niekamp joined TRW Automotive Inc., where her last position was as managing director, transportation systems. She then joined Mead Corp. in 1995 as vice president, corporate strategy and planning, and became president, specialty paper division, in 1998. Following the 2002 merger of Mead with Westvaco Corp., Niekamp served as senior vice president, strategy and specialty operations, and then as senior vice president and chief financial officer for MeadWestvaco until 2004.
Niekamp earned an industrial engineering degree from Purdue University and a master of business administration degree from Harvard University.