Ford Motor Company
What attracted you to the auto industry? I enjoy the complexity of the auto industry. You have to bring so many things together: design, manufacturing, sales, financing, with the support teams underneath, such as IT, that make it all work.
I should mention that I didn't join Ford the first time they asked me. One reason was that there wasn't anyone who looked like me 31 years ago. It's important that companies have visible role models for young women to see that it's something they can do.
First automotive job: I joined Ford in 1983 on the telecom team. The first thing I did was put together a dialing plan for the company so you could call anyone in the company with five digits. It was a big puzzle, a big math problem.
Big break: In the early 1990s, I went to work at Ford Credit, which allowed me to be more visible than I might have been at Ford. I kept getting more responsibility at a time when the division was going through a big transformation.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? It came when we went through the Way Forward process in 2007 and 2008. Ford emerged without going through bankruptcy, but to do that, there was a lot of hard work involved. We were doing things like consolidating data centers, leveraging technology for cost savings and transitioning people out of the company. You can't afford disruption during those times, and balancing more work with fewer people while trying to respect the team wasn't easy.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My father. He was an entrepreneur, and he really had a gift for engaging with people. He respected everyone no matter their stature within the company and could get the most out of everyone. I think about that a lot.
Tell us about your family. I'm married, and I have a 27-year-old son who lives in New York City. He's been quite an inspiration. Visiting him and seeing the way that he and his friends move around the city, using multiple modes of transportation rather than being tied to just one vehicle, has been great learning for me to take home to my team as Ford becomes more of a mobility company instead of just a car company.
What's your favorite weekend activity? I'm a work-hard, play-hard person, and I like being outdoors. In the summer, I go boating, kayaking and hiking. I like to run. In the winter, I go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing.
Are you able to maintain friendships? My husband was just telling me last night that I go overboard. It's hard to keep up with everybody sometimes, having such a busy job and traveling so much. But with the Internet, it's easier to keep up than ever before. I have a very close group of friends from college, and in April, we all went on a river cruise in France.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. My husband and I just bought a one-third share of an RV, which would probably shock most people. I don't think people see me as an outdoorsy type because I wear a suit every day at work. But we got a used RV with my brother-in-law.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Joan of Arc. When I was on that trip in France with my college friends, we went to the town where she lived, and we saw where she was burned at the stake. For her to be so young and a woman and to have such influence, with all the sacrifices that she made — I found it very striking.
What advice would you give your child? There's this book called The Four Agreements, and to me, it applies to both work and home. When my son moved to New York, I gave him that book. When someone is struggling with something, I often get it out for them. The agreements are: Be impeccable with your word. Don't take things personally. Don't make assumptions. And always do your best.
By Gabe Nelson