Deborah Coleman, 52
Vice President, Global Quality, Ford Motor Co.
Education: B.A., psychology, Southern Illinois University; M.A., psychology, Washington University; M.B.A., Baker College
First automotive job: Reliability engineer at General Motors' St. Louis assembly plant in 1977
Most fun automotive job: "Working at the Mustang plant. Can you imagine having to drive and evaluate one of those every day?"
- 2001-04 CEO and group managing director, Ford of Southern Africa
- 1999-2001 CEO, COO and president, AutoAlliance International Inc.
- 1997-99 International director, quality control, Ford Motor Co.
- 1994-96 Plant manager, Ohio Assembly, Ford Motor
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "When I first came to Ford, I was working at Wixom (assembly plant). I deviated from the operating procedures that had made me successful so far in the automotive business to be accepted by my peers at Ford. And it almost cost me my job because I couldn't deliver the business results. I learned that straying from the methodologies that I use in terms of problem-solving, thinking and involving people was not successful for me. Since that day, I have been determined to be myself, to do what works for me."
Proudest achievement: "The job in South Africa. It gave me the opportunity to work with a team to identify what strategies we needed to put in place to revitalize the business in South Africa. We significantly improved quality, profitability, revenues, market share."
Current challenge: "Getting Ford on track to continuous improvement in terms of the customer's perception of our quality. That's probably the biggest challenge."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "This is a business that has plenty of opportunity. Many women shy away because it's a male-dominated industry and requires long working hours, and there isn't a balance. But all those things can actually be created.
"I've raised two daughters, primarily as a single parent working in the automobile industry. It's quite doable that you can have a family, you can have a life, and you can have a very productive global career in the auto industry."
Job to which you aspire: "I would like to be responsible for (an international) region as an operating manager."
What you do to relax: "Read, exercise, spend time with family and friends, garden."