Pandora Ellison, 52
Director, Vehicle Attributes and Systems Engineering, Ford Motor Co.
Education: Bachelor's, mechanical engineering, University of Detroit
First automotive job: College graduate in training at General Motors in 1977
Biggest mistake and what you learned: "Probably staying in one place too long. Some of it was good from the standpoint of building the knowledge foundation. But when I think about where I really ultimately would like to end up, I look back at some of the years I spent, the early years, and I just think maybe I should have got up and quit and went somewhere else. I spent 25 years at GM and another four at Delphi. I probably should have gotten up and left there sooner than I did. It was so slow. When I came back for my first real assignment after spending some time in engineering school, I was in a drafting room with hundreds of guys and I was the only female. So back then it was very slow. You had to prove yourself."
- 2001-04 Chief engineer, vehicle attributes and systems engineering, Ford
- 1999-2001 Director, advanced programs, Delphi Automotive Systems, Troy, Mich. (Note: Delphi Automotive Systems was spun off from General Motors in 1999.)
- 1997-99 Chief engineer, chassis systems, Delphi
- 1997 Director, brakes and integrated chassis control, truck group, GM
Proudest achievement: "Working at GM on a full-sized van program."
On being successful: "You have to be open-minded. You can't let the little things get in your way. You have to be organized. You have to be able to jump on more than one thing. You have to be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. You can't say you can't do it.
"You have to learn how to get things done through people. I'm in an industry that's male-dominated. You can imagine some female trying to tell 800 guys what to do. What it takes is enough charisma to get people to follow you and run through walls for you."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "The diversity in the whole industry has evolved, and it's good to see - both women and minorities. I never thought we'd be here."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "Product development and manufacturing still tend to be the two last-hold areas that are still pretty male-dominated. Everybody can design things. If you got to engineering school, you can design a widget. But the thing that will make you stand out above the others is the ability to do things over and above."
Job to which you aspire: "I would love to be a vice president because I think I really have something to contribute. For me now, at 52, a lot of what I have is the ability to give back."
What you do to relax: "Travel. I have a place in Florida. Starting in October, I take long weekends once a month until Memorial Day weekend."