Elena Ford, 39
Director, North America Product Marketing, Planning and Strategy, Ford Motor Co.
Education: B.A., business, New York University
First automotive job: Truck advertising specialist at Ford Division in 1995
Most fun automotive job: "Being the Mercury marketing manager was the most challenging at the time, but also the most fun. But I have to say, if I were not having fun now, I wouldn't be here in this job. It has to be fun in my opinion. Otherwise, there's no point."
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Not getting into the automotive business soon enough, waiting until '95 and not doing it right out of school. I feel like I wasted a few years."
Career highlights (all with Ford)
- 2003-05 Director, North America product marketing, Ford, Lincoln and Mercury
- 2002-03 Director, business strategy, international automotive operations
- 2001-02 Marketing manager, Mercury
- 1999-2001 Director, e-marketing and e-solutions, ConsumerConnect
Proudest achievement: "Putting Mercury back on track. I would say it was on the brink of not knowing what it was doing. We went in, and it was a team effort. It was engineering, design and marketing working together to set a business strategy, and then to set a product strategy within six months and get it into the cycled plan, and then deliver the Montego and the Mariner last year.
"It was not Elena. It was engineering, design and marketing working hand-in-hand, week-to-week, to do it together."
Current challenge: "Keeping all the programs moving forward and staying cohesive. They're on track and moving ahead. The challenges come in terms of things that are almost uncontrollable: (currency) exchange, increase in steel prices, what we call external factors.
"I think the most challenging thing facing the company is really getting the business sized for the number of vehicles that we sell."
On being successful: "Being honest, having integrity. I'm very direct. I kind of just tell you how it is. You have to be straightforward and honest to be successful. You have to have confidence in what you're talking about."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "You have to really love cars to be in this industry. It's like, if you work for a makeup company - I can't think of anything else right now - you have to really love makeup. I couldn't go and work for a makeup company. It wouldn't be my thing. But you have to love what you do. Whether it's male-dominated or female-dominated, you have to really be into it. My advice to women is, if you love cars, and you want to be part of a team that wants to deliver great transportation, then come to Ford and be in the car business. That's what we do."
Job to which you aspire: "First of all, let me say, I want to earn my way to every job. I've been very consistent on that.
"For instance, I certainly didn't ask to inherit planning and strategy, but Steve Lyons and Phil Martens (Ford Motor's group vice president for product creation in North America) decided that's what I was going to do.
Ultimately, I would like to have Steve Lyons' job. I would like to be the group vice president of marketing, sales and service. But I want to earn my way there.
I've never turned down any job that anyone's asked me to do, and I would do anything that would benefit Ford Motor Co."
What you do to relax: "I actually have a hard time relaxing. I like spending time with my family. We hang out, we travel."