Ford Motor Co.
What attracted you to the auto industry? I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, a big GM town. I knew I wanted to be in engineering because I liked math and science. It was either automotive or military in Dayton. I always was attracted to automotive because it's a product everybody is passionate about.
Big break: The move to Asia and leading the marketing organization for Asia Pacific and Africa. It was a very broad span of markets I covered — from New Zealand to South Africa. We were just starting to bring a significant number of vehicles to Asia Pacific and Africa. Integrating our launch process with different cultures in those markets and working with the local teams in each of the markets was quite a challenge.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? The Asian opportunity — there were a couple of challenges. One was the diversity of the markets, from mature markets like Australia and New Zealand to very early developing markets Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. It was also development of the people during such a rapid growth mode. Especially in China, it's tough to keep talent, so it's training and retraining and finding the right individuals who can do business with a Western mindset. Another challenge was from a logistics perspective. I had to integrate into the global marketing team. That meant covering the 13 time zones and calling in to Dearborn. It was difficult to manage.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Jim Farley (former global marketing chief and now Ford's president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa) has had a big influence on my career, certainly as a marketing professional. He brought a whole new level of marketing expertise to the company. I've learned a lot from Joe Hinrichs (president of the Americas) and (CEO) Mark Fields.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? There's such great opportunity now that's just starting in the area of customer experience that women can play a big role in. I think many women are scared away from our industry because it's about product and manufacturing. It is, but it's also now about the customer experience and the connections we need to make with customers.
Tell us about your family. My husband works at Ford, so we met at Ford. I have two daughters, 13 and 11.
What's your favorite weekend activity? I like spending time with my husband and girls. We like to spend as much time outdoors as we can, whether it's at the pool or biking. And I like to work out. We have a home gym I like to use.
Are you able to maintain friendships? That is probably the thing that gives first is friendships. I'm fortunate to work with a lot of talented, special women that I like a lot. So I have a lot of friendships at work, but outside work, it's tough to maintain those relationships. It's hard to understand the pace at which we work and the demands on our time if you're not in this industry.
Best advice you've ever gotten? It's advice I got from Anne Stevens (Ford's former COO of the Americas). She said, "Outsource as much as you can." At the time, I thought that was a very cold remark, meaning outsourcing as much of raising your children and other things. But that wasn't what she meant. She meant outsource everything you personally don't have to do, whether it could be with kids, taking care of the house, taking care of the yard. Whatever it is, if you don't personally have to do it, don't.
By Bradford Wernle