Anne Stevens, 56
Group Vice President, Canada, Mexico and South America, Ford Motor Co.
Education: B.S., mechanical and materials engineering, Drexel University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "The most important thing is not being able to solve a technical equation. The most important part of solving a problem is the people. What you learn in college is to get the information from books or research or whatever, and you really don't learn that if you take a plant issue that the problem is on the factory floor, and a lot of the times the people building the product know the answer. They may not have the technical root cause, but they can certainly describe the problem to you. The same thing with engineering. You really won't understand it if you just look at the data and don't talk to the people who ran the test or drove the vehicle. One thing most engineering programs really fail to thoroughly teach are the people skills."
First automotive job: Plastics products marketing specialist for vehicle exterior systems at Ford Motor Co. in 1990
Career highlights (all with Ford)
- 2001-03 Vice president, North America vehicle operations
- 2000-01 Executive director, North America vehicle operations
- 1999-2000 Director, North America manufacturing business office
- 1997-99 Assistant vehicle line director, small-car vehicle center, Dunton, England
Most fun automotive job: "This one. For me, I love technical problems, and I have engineering, I have plants, I have distribution, logistics. I have finances, internal controls. For me, it's just like one big wonderful thing of problems and opportunities. I have the ability to problem solve. I like strategy. I just like the excitement of vehicles in the marketplace. I like figuring out the right product for people. I like figuring out the business model. I really like focusing today, tomorrow and 10 years from now. My intellectual curiosity can be answered at all kinds of dimensional levels."
Proudest achievement: "Looking around the organization now - there were always a lot of competent men at the high levels - but looking around now and seeing how many bright, dynamic and competent women are in the organization. Knowing that along the way, I knew many of them, I had mentoring relations with many of them, there's really nothing that makes me prouder than that."
On being successful: "You need to build a portfolio of education, experience and positive attitude that fulfills your dreams. So if you want to be CEO, COO or head of a group, then you really need to understand what it takes in all three of those areas. Then get the experiences, get the education and develop a winning attitude, and you build yourself into a successful leader. The other thing, in the auto business, you've got to be durable. This is not a business for the light of heart. I'm sorry. It's mental durability; it's physical durability and emotional durability. This is a business of highs and lows. Don't take it personally; recognize that it's a tough business, and go on with it."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Know what you want; make sure you're qualified for the position. Communicate with your employer what your expectations are. Seek and give frank feedback. Be a good receiver of feedback. I think sometimes people will ask for feedback, and if you tell them the truth, they fight with you. If you do that one time - guess what? - you're not going to get any more feedback. All of that is about going for what you want.
"And if I ask what is it that you want to achieve, and you say, 'I'll do whatever the company wants me to do,' I'm going to come down on you like a ton of bricks. I'm going to basically say, 'Don't let anyone else write your script.' Your career is your book; you write the script. Ford Motor Co., whoever, should never write the script. So anybody who comes into me is going to get a real aggressive talking to."
Job to which you aspire: "I don't know if I want to put that in print. You know, I want more. I want more. I want more responsibility in terms of the business. I can do more. I'm capable of doing more. And I want more. I do want to be a CEO."
What you do to relax: "I buy jewelry. The last time I went (shoe) shopping in Brazil, I came home with 15 pairs. I was prepared and brought an empty suitcase.
"I really like to spend time with the different cultures. I got to Machu Picchu (Peru) this year with the Brazilian dealers. If I'm going to take a personal holiday, (I spend time) with my children and grandchildren.
"I do love to shop. Actually, no. Here's the truth: I have no time for shopping; I only have time to buy. I can power buy like you can't believe. I shop a lot on the Internet. I love QVC. I buy my underwear from QVC. They have name-brand products, and it's 24 hours. I do 60 percent of my Christmas shopping on QVC.
"I was at a drag race watching John Force, whom I love, and one of his friends manufactures and sells gold jewelry to QVC. I said, 'What's QVC?' So I learned about QVC from a man at a drag race."