Lisa Drake

Current Position: Chief Engineer at Ford Motor Company
Lisa Drake
Highlight Lisa is working on developing Ford's first electric and hybrid vehicles!
Her job: Chief Engineer, Ford Motor Company
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I am the chief engineer for Ford's Global Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles. I am responsible for the development and launch of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicle applications worldwide.
Why did you choose engineering? I started as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University as a biology major -- thinking that I was going to med school. Very quickly, I realized that I enjoyed the physics and math classes much more than some of the pure science courses. Also, I has several sophomore friends who were mechanical engineering majors and was really interested in the courses they were taking. So, in my sophomore year, I switched. I have loved engineering ever since!
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, with majors in both biomedical engineering and engineering & public policy. I also hold a master’s degree in business administration from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? I am fortunate that I get to lead and participate in a variety of things in my daily work -- I have to manage product programs to financial targets in the millions-of-dollars range. I get to design and develop what the vehicles look like and how they drive and perform. I get to participate in work with marketing on how to advertise and bring the products to market, and this is all accomplished through leadership of a fantastic team that I enjoy working with every day.
What do you like best about being an engineer? Solving problems!! I love to solve problems and create things (I consistently have 5-6 projects at home going on, as I love putting hard work and thought into things and to challenge myself to see what I can do.) Being "trained" as an engineer in college allows you to quickly look at a problem, deconstruct it into logical steps, and then tackle it and move forward with a solution. You can apply this to almost anything that you do -- not just engineering cars.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? Probably the acceptance into the Automotive Hall of Fame, and more importantly, the nomination by Derrick Kuzak (Vice President of Product Development at Ford.) He is one of the most respected engineers in the automotive industry, and to be nominated by him was truly an honor.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? Not many, really. If you want to do something or try something, just do it. You will be surprised how much you can personally accomplish or change if you just decide that you want to do it. I will say that growing up, I had no interest in cars. My dad and other men in my family always worked on their cars and talked about them, but I had no interest. Once I started at Ford, though -- I grew to love them!! I'm still not a gear-head or grease-monkey (love my Starbucks lattes and Manolo Blahniks...), but I love to talk to people about their cars, what they like/don't like, etc. You can still "be a girl" and do very well in the automotive industry.
Please tell us a little about your family. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and most of my family is still there. I am engaged to be married this year, and need to plan a wedding!
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? I can't wait to deliver some of our new electrified vehicle products into the market -- the Ford Focus Electric vehicle, and several other new products. In 10 years, I hope I am still loving my job as much as I do now!
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? I would have to start with my parents -- they always let me dream as big as I could and choose to shoot for the moon. They also supported me by allowing me any choice for college and worked so hard to manage tuition at Carnegie Mellon. From there, I have a few key mentors at Ford that have also shaped my professional, as well as personal decisions.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Go for it! And don't think about the "challenges" -- just follow your passion.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I love to play soccer, tennis, and sports in general. I'm a huge fan of shoes! I do a lot of significant home renovations (took my kitchen down to the studs and remodeled the entire thing mostly myself and with the help of friends/family.)