March 31, 2010Her job: Group Vice President, Ford Motor Company
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am responsible for establishing Ford Motor Company's long range sustainability strategy and environmental policy. I also establish Ford's long term safety strategy and make sure Ford meets or exceeds all safety and environmental regulations worldwide. I help develop the products and processes to satisfy our customers and society by working on issues that affect the safety, the environment and energy independence.
Why did you choose engineering?
I always liked problem solving and particularly liked math, but I wasn't sure what engineering really was all about until I got to college and was advised to try it out. It was good advice - I was surprised at how much I did like it. Engineering is really about helping people -- using your science skills to make the world better.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I also have a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Management from the University of Michigan. I've also attended the Tuck Executive Program at Dartmouth as part of ongoing education.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I work in all phases of the auto industry from the early design concept through the product development to the actual field experiences of the customer. In my job, I regularly meet with government officials to help shape regulations, work with other engineers to make sure all our products meet our safety and environmental requirements, and with other people around the world to address issues like climate change.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
What is most exciting to me is making a difference in the world when it comes to safety and the environment. The decisions I make can help save lives and address major issues like greenhouse gases, energy usage, new forms of transportation - like electric cars -- very exciting things!
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I think I am most proud of having been part of the top management team at two of the American automakers. At Ford, I am very happy to be leading a team of people that are making the highest rated safety vehicles as well as being fuel economy leaders. It's exciting being part of team that is delivering best-in-class products.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
When I first started my engineering career, there weren't many women in engineering. So many times I was the first one to participate in a road trip or at a particular meeting -- some times this was a little awkward but overall I had some really exciting opportunities. Now it is much more common to have women at all levels in a company -- which is really important to get everyone's ideas represented.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I don't have any children but am very close to my niece and 5 nephews. My niece is an engineer and so is one of my nephews. It's been great being able to give them advice along the way. My other nephews are also involved in different business opportunities and we have a chance to keep in touch often.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
My short term goal is to continue being part of the leadership team at Ford Motor Company and helping to make exciting products that people want to buy. I also want to continue developing people who work on my team including being the executive sponsor for our Professional Women's Network. Our goal is to retain and attract the best and brightest for Ford. Long term goals may involve teaching in my retirement and traveling all over the world.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My parents had the greatest influence -- they always encouraged me to do my best and to take on difficult challenges. They had confidence in me and I was very lucky to have their guidance and love. I never felt there were limits in what I could do.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Engineering is a fantastic career -- so many things that you can do whether you like working on a team or working individually. It's really important to take classes in math and science to prepare you for the future whether you intend to pursue engineering or not. Keep an open mind --you may be surprised at what you can do!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I enjoy traveling both for business and pleasure. I love meeting people all over the world and experiencing their culture. I'm also a golfer although I haven't had as much opportunity to play as I would like due to a busy schedule. I have a new "great niece" that I love to spend time with, although she lives out of state. It's fun to be part of her life.