Vanessa Gordon, 46
Vice President and General Manager, Ford and New Domestics Business Unit, ASC Inc.
Education: B.S. mechanical engineering, Tennessee State University
First automotive job: "I was a Ford college graduate. What Ford does is hire a group of college grads and sends them through a rotational development plan for two years. I worked design, product planning and marketing. I worked in a production environment for four months. I got a good cross section of how the disciplines in an organization function. That was my first job, and after that I was a product design engineer."
Most fun automotive job: "My definition of fun is when you get to put your signature on the exterior of the vehicle, and you can see it rolling down the road. At Ford the first fun assignment I had was to develop a feature model intended to generate some interest and excitement in the product. We had to maintain sales momentum on the Mercury Villager. The Villager Nautica and the gold appearance package generated something like $3 million in incremental revenue. At ASC, this was a pretty challenging assignment but a chance to put your signature on a vehicle.
- 2000-03 Vehicle integration supervisor, D219 program, MSX International, Auburn Hills, Mich.
- 1997-2000 Various positions, Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, Texas
- 1994-97 Product planning and quality analyst; program activity leader, Mercury Villager total cost management team, Ford
- 1987-94 Product design engineer, Taurus/Sable powertrain design, vehicle engineering office, Ford
"We just recently launched a product for Nissan. It's a three-panel tonneau cover for the Titan and a two-panel cover for the Frontier. It really is a rewarding experience to see your hard work rolling down the road."
Proudest achievement: "I'll split it in two. In life it's: Growing up in the inner city and being a leader, not a follower, has allowed me to escape some of the difficult challenges that exist in inner cities. Not having done that, everything else really wouldn't matter. In business: The personal values I learned from my parents about having a positive attitude and my work ethic and having integrity. All those things help you to succeed in the business environment as well."
Current challenge: "Growing the business in the current automotive environment."
What about the auto industry surprised you: "We tend to really overlook the obvious because we are focused on accomplishing the real complicated things."
What women need to know for success in the auto industry: "I would say focus on being good at whatever you do. If you are a female executive, don't focus on being a female executive, focus on being a good executive. Because the demographics of the country are changing so much, I think employers are going to start to value diversity a little more. Who understands women's buying patterns better than women? You bring a unique perspective. Embrace who you are."
Job to which you aspire: "I don't really aspire to a title as much as I aspire to have a job that I get some satisfaction from and growth."
What you do to relax: "Play tennis."