Mary Lou Quesnell, 47
General Sales Manager, Ford Customer Service Division, Ford Motor Co.
Why did you want to work in the auto industry? My father worked for Ford Motor Co. and he used to bring home fast cars. I'd sit on his lap and watch boxing and Ford commercials and he'd ask me my opinion.
Later I did a number of internships at Pepsi and Xerox, but there is something about Ford that gets in your blood. I had a passion for the product and the company, and I couldn't stay away.
First automotive job: In 1985, I started in the Ford Division, Detroit district, as a zone manager.
Proudest professional achievement: I have two. As a legacy employee, I have a great passion for developing and mentoring future leaders to keep this fine company soaring. So my contribution is to leave this company in the hands of leaders that will continue to deliver Ford's promise for a better world. So having people recognize this is part of my DNA is a great accomplishment.
Also, I initially worked on the Way Forward Team as the brand DNA manager. My role was to define the brand core values and image for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury and define the target customer and understand how that fits in our product strategy. Then to develop the communication and messaging so that the DNA lives in every employee and consumer touch point. It was very energizing given the state of the company and the times. People continue to work on it today and develop a better plan. I'm extremely proud of our progress.
Current challenge at work: There is a traditional automotive career path that usually involves moving several times and integrating yourself into a man's world. And we also have different age groups to consider.
The younger people of today do not have the same values and work ethic as the previous generation executives did. They value free time vs. the idea, "I have to be in the office at 7 a.m. and will stay here until the last person leaves." They're not about climbing the ladder; they're about personal development. They're not about sitting around a table in shirt and tie; they're about collaboration in a relaxed environment.
So there are generational differences, and to become an employer of choice we have to recognize the generational difference so that they feel valued and we offer career development and mentoring as well as work-life integration. We have a task force and are working with our regional offices on this issue.
Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for female executives? First of all, there are not a lot of us. Also, many times a woman's response can be perceived differently. So somebody might be really optimistic and they're viewed as a cheerleader.
Or a woman gives solid criticism and she's perceived as negative. Your greatest asset could become your greatest liability.
Dream job: I think Alan Mulally is a really cool guy, and I want to be his bag woman. I'd like to follow him around. He's very inspiring.
On a defining moment: My father was with the company, and so my defining moment as a woman is really being recognized as one of the 100 leading women in the business. The reason for that is my mom and dad used to read Automotive News each week, and they told me they couldn't wait to see my name in print. They're not here today to see it, but I'm glad I made them proud.
What you do to relax: I like spending time with my husband and my daughter. I have a great sense of adventure, so I jump horses. I learned to ride a Harley and am learning to wakeboard this summer. I'm an avid reader.
-- Jamie LaReau