Marcy Fisher Clifford
Ford Motor Co.
What attracted you to the auto industry? I grew up in Detroit and if you grow up in Detroit there are people around you everywhere who are into cars and in the auto industry and it becomes part of your DNA.
First automotive job: In 1986 I started as a process engineer in our vehicle operations so I worked in manufacturing.
Big break: I was eight and a half months pregnant and I interviewed for my first supervisor job. There were several other good candidates and I got the job. I couldn’t believe it. It really said something to me about the management team — that they were willing to select the person that they thought was the best person to do the job and they were willing to put up with the fact that I was going to be gone on maternity in a week or two for like three months. That was 1993.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? The all-new Mustang was probably the biggest single thing I felt like I had done in the company. Every day was a challenge to ensure that you got the product right for the customer. They have lots of expectations. Making sure the product was right was the biggest challenge, and in a lot of ways the biggest responsibility I had. You don’t want to go down in history as the person who came out with a mediocre 50-year anniversary Mustang.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? First is actually family. Starting with my mom, who encouraged me when I was in high school to consider engineering as a potential career — she knew me pretty well and knew what I was good at. I think without her I wouldn’t have gone into engineering.
Second, I think it’s those people who have an idea. That somehow I can help bring that idea to life and help support it, help nurture it, help make it grow — I think people who have been on my team have been the biggest influence on me.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Having people going into STEM-based programs in the university is the first important piece — it’s getting people into the degrees that feed into the auto industry. That takes all of us encouraging young people. Just giving them exposure to things they can do and opportunities along the way. In terms of getting them to come into the auto industry, some of that lies frankly with us and our reputation as an industry and as a company — our ethics, our technology and what we’re doing.
Showing them the excitement of being in the auto industry is probably the biggest opportunity that we have.
Tell us about your family. I have a husband who is a supplier to the auto industry. I have a son. He’s 21, and he’s going into engineering, I guess. And then I have stepchildren ages 23 and 28, boy and girl. The 28-year old is back in school, and he’s going to Wayne State to study computer science. Our daughter just moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., and she’s working for Yelp. And then I have a stepdaughter from a previous marriage and she’s older and has seven children, so I’m Grandma Marcy, too.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten? Be yourself and be true to who you are. When I first came into the auto industry 29 years ago, there was a little bit of a tendency to be generic. I didn’t talk about my kids. I didn’t talk about what was going on with child care and things like that. I didn’t do that because it was mostly men. Where there were common interests, that’s what we talked about — like I love sports … and I kept the “woman side” out of the discussions early on in my career.
That’s so ridiculous, I realize now. And I realized it was sort of my job to talk about those things so that other people could, too. Now every day I talk about what I did last night, what was going on — because everyone has stuff going on in their lives, everyone has child care issues, everyone has challenges with something that’s going on, like managing in-laws coming in. Everyone also has exciting things going on, like building a house or getting ready for a wedding — theirs or their child’s. It’s great to talk about that stuff, because when you know what’s going on with people, your connection improves and your working relationship improves and you also kind of get what’s going on with them, so if they’re stressed out and having a bad day you kind of get why. So I think it’s really better for everyone to be more themselves at work.
By Nora Naughton