Nancy Gioia, 45
Director, Current Model Vehicle Quality, North America, Ford Motor Co.
Education: B.S., electrical engineering, University of Michigan-Dearborn; M.S., manufacturing systems engineering, Stanford University
What your college professors didn't teach you: "Delivery of great product and ideas is collaborative. It requires a level of teamwork, trust, transparency."
First automotive job: Electronics product engineer at Ford in 1982
Career highlights (all with Ford)
- 2005 Director, product development Ford/Visteon negotiation team
- 2003-05 Engineering director, small fwd/rwd vehicle platforms
- 2001-03 Vehicle line director, lifestyle vehicles
- 1997-2001 Chief program engineer, Ford Thunderbird
Most fun automotive job: "Chief engineer of the Thunderbird. No question. It was a culmination of all of the experiences I'd had. It required a new level of leadership in myself. It's not a short journey. We did the car from concept all the way through to production. You learn a lot about yourself and the people you work with. The other thing is the customers. Oh my gosh, when we finally launched the car, there was so much enthusiasm. Today, I even received another note from a T-Bird driver. What a joy to be part of a product with a team where we all had great passion for the product."
Proudest achievement: "Clearly bringing the Thunderbird forward. The other thing I'm most proud of is having been a mentor and participant in people development throughout my entire career."
Current challenge: "The huge challenges we have right now: the number of competitors, the number of new models entering the segment, the global market in its shift, the opening of new countries - China, Asia, India - coming into an open market. One of the huge challenges there is basic business models. We are all in the industry standing back and re-examining our business models. Are they sustainable going forward? Anytime you have to step back and look at the fundamentals and adjust at a very, very rapid pace, the challenges are abundant."
On being successful: "You have to have competence with humility."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "The tremendous opportunity that exists. I've probably had five distinctive careers all in one company and one industry, and I've enjoyed every single one of them. I had no inclination to come into automotive. My family is not from the automotive industry. My parents are teachers."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "You have to be very comfortable with yourself. Seeking out role models is important, both male and female. There are differences between men and women. Understanding what those are actually is a strength - that you can bring a different perspective - and you have to be comfortable with how you do that. Back when I started, it was at a time when women worked very hard to be like men. You didn't have a picture of your kids on your desk because you could be cast as, 'Well, she's more interested in this or that.' Nowadays you see pictures of kids on everybody's desk. So the world has changed, which is great."
Job to which you aspire: "What I'd really like to do is move into the next level: total profit and loss kind of responsibility. Run a bigger chunk of the business."
What you do to relax: "Enjoy my husband's cooking. Spending time with my family. My daughter and I ride horses. Music, horses, exercise, family. I play piano, flute and some saxophone."