DEARBORN - In honor of March being Women’s History month, @Ford is highlighting some of the company’s outstanding female leadership throughout the next several weeks. These features will focus specifically on those who have had great success in manufacturing, a typically male-dominated field.
Their stories are inspiring and their drive and Go Further spirit have helped shape Ford Manufacturing into the success it is today.
Know a female Ford team member who deserves recognition? Nominate her in the comments section below.
Note: The comment function is available only inside the Ford firewall.
Who: Shaun Whitehead
Title: Plant Manager, Powertrain Operations, Windsor Engine Plant
Time with Ford: 25 years
Q. What was your first role with the company?
A. After completing the two year Ford Graduate Program in Manufacturing I was assigned as a Test Engineer at Livonia Transmission Plant.
Q. Can you identify one experience you’ve had with Ford that really had an impact on you?
A. When I first started with Ford Motor Company, I was working as an engineer in Manufacturing and it was an exciting place. I saw so many opportunities to learn and contribute. Working next to me was a senior engineer, who was very technically competent, but very negative and unhappy.
Fast forward 20 years or so, I was the president of Batavia Transmissions LLC, and in 2005 we were one of the plants that were affected by closure. This was a time when employees could have become very bitter just like the engineer who I remembered so well when I started with the company. What I learned from that experience was that as a leader if you focus on the needs of the people, and communicate honestly with care, the business will take care of itself. I’m proud to say the plant performed very well in its last few years and people were amazing and resilient! I am a better leader today from experiences such as these.
Q. What do you like about working at Ford?
A. I love working with such a creative group of people. We have accomplished many fantastic actions that have impacted the business.
Q. What do you love about manufacturing?
A. Amazing things happen every day; quick reaction to issues; development of new technologies and processes; working close to the customers’ product; managing complexity; providing solutions; and working with talented people…people make the difference!
Q. When you were a child, what did you think you would be when you grew up?
A. An engineer.
Q. Who have been your female role models?
A. Some of the first’s, those who took on new roles as a first female. They are all my inspiration.
Q. In your role, what are you most looking forward to in 2014?
A. The acceleration of the Ford Production System (FPS). We’re seeing so many benefits and I’m excited about the future.
Q. Is there one achievement you are most proud of?
A. I’m most proud when I see the organization really grow and mature. I know that seems corny, but it’s true. It’s always a great moment when people learn, develop and deliver amazing things, especially when you may have played a small role to engage and inspire them to do so.
Q. What would you say has been the key to your success?
A. Knowing who I am, growing who I am and respecting all people.
Q. In your opinion, what is the best response one can have to failure or perceived failure?
A. Henry Ford said it best “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” It’s important to pick yourself up quickly after a failure, everyone experiences them and get right back in it again!
Q. What advice would you give to young women who are in the process of choosing what type of career path they want to follow?
A. Seek to understand your passion, and once you discover that, go for it with everything you have. Don’t sell yourself short in your potential to learn and achieve great things. It’s also your responsibility to be actively shaping your career path, in communicating your interests and aspiration, and seeking feedback on opportunities to improve.