Ford Motor Company
Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
involved with product, systems, and plant equipment design, plus
testing and reliability.
"One thing that a
lot of engineering students don't realize is how engineering
really is a team sport, that any project is made up of the work
of hundreds and thousands of people. Engineering in school is
very much of a solo effort where you need to find certain key
pieces of knowledge."
"Include a master's
degree in their career-building plan. Language courses can be an
important asset, when so many employers have overseas interests
"I think there's a lot of talk about whether you'd like to work for a
large company or a small company. And there certainly are advantages to
both. With a large company, you get stability, you get structure, you get
resources. You get peer recognition right within the company. With a small
company you get greater flexibility, the possibility for maybe more
compensation, but less stability and things like that. Both can be good."
"I think that in the past couple of years, Ford has certainly become more
international. The European operations used to be separate from North
American operations to a larger degree. They're certainly very integrated
now. I think that's definitely a positive thing. We interface more with
people of different backgrounds, speaking different languages, from
different cultures. That's really a mind opening experience."
"There's a lot of career planning that goes on, and early on they ask you
'do you want to go into management?' 'do you want to stay in engineering?'
'what rotations do you want?' There a whole training period for the first
couple of years. Most people who come into Ford will rotate through a
number of different areas."
"We have annual performance reviews and they, early on in the year, would
establish what you're supposed to be doing. And then if there's a real
deviation between what you're supposed to be doing and what you are doing,
they'll mention it at around mid-year and at the end of the year they
assess how well you performed. And, to an extent, that determines your pay
raises. I think that's one thing to realize in a big corporation -- that
no matter how much you achieve or don't achieve that there are only
certain brackets that your compensation will fall into. So, if you think
you're working ten times as hard as the guy sitting next to you have to
realize that you're certainly not going to make two times his pay. That's
just a fact of big corporate America."
talk about - big companies especially - having a dual ladder. And you can
go up the management path, and that's more of a supervisory role, or you
can go up the engineering path, and at Ford they refer to that as a
technical specialist. The two paths of the ladder will never be equal
lengths - there are more opportunities in management than in engineering.
But that's not to say you can't be very well compensated in an engineering
path. The advantage too, is that the work might be more enjoyable. You
might not have to take it home as much with you."
Q: Do you do a lot of
No, no. Some engineers at Ford
travel a treat deal. A lot of the evaluation of vehicles that are going to
be sold and replaced in the world; we have to drive them everywhere in the
world. We go down to Arizona for hot-weather testing; up to Bamidge,
Michigan for cold weather testing. We go up to the mountains in Colorado.
Now, I don't actually do a lot of that. I'll take an occasional trip to a
wind tunnel in Georgia, maybe, or day trips here and there. So not a great
deal of traveling.
Q: What do you find you
spend most of your time actually doing? Is it on a computer, is it working
with other people, meetings? How do you divide up your time?
In my current assignment, I do
a lot of computer work -- engineering analysis, using the graphics and
design systems that Ford uses. Prior to this assignment, just a few months
ago, I had a lab job where I'd spend a fair amount of my time down in the
laboratory doing experiments and trying to understand how the various
systems in the car are producing effects.
Q: How did you get your
first job out of school?
Actually, I stayed through
undergrad and got a Master's degree. I went six years straight. And when I
was in the process of interviewing for jobs on campus, I was contacted by
a recruiter that Ford had contracted, to find someone with my mix of
Q: And so you've only been
with Ford straight through. How many positions have you held in Ford?
I've been at Ford for six
years and I've had just two positions.
Q: What about the hot
topic now, we've been hearing a lot about it -- "telecommuting?" Is
that something that is done here at Ford, or is that something that
in your position you see for the future?
Well, Ford's very big and I've heard that we have a pilot program in
process where people are set up with computers in their home. From a
practical standpoint, I don't think that the kinds of jobs that I've
had will ever lend themselves to telecommuting. They're
hardware-oriented, lab-oriented, and people-oriented and I think you
need the direct interaction. Not to mention that I work with very
expensive equipment that I would really have to come here to use.
Q: How many people make up
the teams you're working with now?
Well, depending on the
size of the project, anything from literally as few as the engineer
and the designer -- maybe two people -- up to 100 people for complex
Q: What do you think the
best aspects of your job are?
Working for a big
company and working on a very commercial product, we have a great
deal of resources. We use state-of-the-art equipment. We're really
pushing the engineering envelope. So the challenges that we face
trying to make a product that's manufactured in huge quantities, and
used in an endless variety of conditions, are very interesting.
Q: What about a down side?
Well, with any large
company, I think that the flexibility and the resources you have are
the strength. And maybe the room for compensation is diminished a
little bit. No matter how good my work is, I can only expect to
progress through the pay scales at a certain pace. So you trade off
maybe security and resources for compensation. Whereas in a small
company, you could, if you make it big, you could be making millions
of dollars, theoretically.
Q: Did you feel your
undergraduate education and your graduate education well-prepared
you to be out in the work world?
I think I was very well
prepared. I had a very favorable experience with my education.
Q: Did you co-op?
No, I had one summer job at a jet engine facility.
Q: What do you think are
your strongest skills, your most transferable skills, that have led
you to go through the ranks, in a sense, and have some versatility
in your career here at Ford? What do you think are the job skills
that you possess that were important? What are the integral ones
that you have?
Well, I think that a very useful skill for engineers is,
fundamentally, a logical thought process that transcends any
particular job you have at the time. And you can get those skills
partly from course work, partly from job experience. But that's
fundamentally the thing that will transfer the most.
Q: What about
international work? Do you do any international work in your current
Yes. I've been involved
with a couple of different international projects. I've been to Ford
facilities outside of London and outside of Cologne, Germany. Ford
is a very big presence in Europe and right now two of my three
immediate bosses are from Germany, on assignment here. We work on
European car-and-truck programs to a great degree.
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