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.
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Who: Alba Contreras
Title: Global Labor Optimization Manager, Global Manufacturing, and Women in Manufacturing co-chair of Plant Liaison Committee.
Time with Ford: 20 years in May
Q. What was your first role with the company?
A. I began as a GSR8 training coordinator for Venezuela and Colombia.
Q. Can you identify one experience you have had with Ford that really had an impact on you?
A. One of the most rewarding experiences I have had was when I was working as the CD3 Program manager and Manufacturing and Planning Area manager in Hermosillo, Mexico. I was in charge of launching three very important vehicles and I was the first female appointed to an Operating Committee there. During that time, I also was able to be involved in establishing a women’s network which was very important and eventually earned a diversity award as recognition.
Q. What do you like about working at Ford?
A. Our global reach, highly regarded reputation and corporate citizenship. I like that we are able to deliver products anyone has access to.
Q. What do you love about manufacturing?
A. That our people need to deliver vehicles with high levels of technology and complexity is fascinating to me. Every 60 minutes we build a vehicle that has to be perfect.
Q. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. I came to the United States after high school intending to learn English and pursue a degree in architecture. My grandfather always told me that a person who spoke two languages was equal in value to two people. However, once I was here, I learned I would need a master’s degree in architecture in order to be able to practice outside of the U.S. My parents could not afford that at the time so I started looking into other options. Today, I am very grateful for having made the switch to Business and Computer Information Sciences.
Q. Who have been your female role models?
A. My mother, Mother Theresa, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Each of these women was ahead of their time in one way or another. These women also have a mission to help others and are risk takers. To me these are very important character elements.
Q. In your role, what are you most looking forward to in 2014?
A. I have so much to look forward to. The role of Global Labor Optimization manager is new for me as of March 1, 2014 so I am, in the process of forming a team and setting goals – it’s very exciting.
Q. Is there one achievement you are most proud of?
A. I am proud of the fact that my career with Ford allowed me and my family become United States citizens. And I am proud I was able to obtain my master’s degree in 2012 while working full time.
Q. What advice would you give to young women in the process of choosing what type of career path they want to follow?
A. Decide what you want to do and then find mentors and coaches that can share their experience and expertise. Do some research to determine a good fit for you – you don’t want to waste time or effort on something you don’t really want.
Q. What would you say has been the key to your success?
A. Resilience, persistence and discipline. When I decide to do something I work toward it. Also, I always surround myself with good people and good teams.
Q. In your opinion, what is the best response one can have to failure or perceived failure?
A. I think that when we fail, in that moment, we feel it is the worst thing that could have happened. But there are lessons to be learned and often that includes the realization that the failure was worthwhile or for the best. We typically try to avoid failure and that keeps us from learning.