What attracted you to the auto industry?
The close connection to and excitement about the final product. I worked in the aerospace industry for a little while and found the product too remote. If you were lucky the airplane you flew on a few times a year might have Rolls-Royce engines. Our cars are everywhere and I am lucky enough to drive them every day.
First automotive job:
I was responsible for product readiness for the fuel injectors in the Storm engine for the second-generation Land Rover Discovery at LucasVarity Diesel Systems in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. This was in 1997.
What was your big break?
Switching from manufacturing to product development. The Ford Production System guru at the Halewood, UK, plant recommended me to one of the product development directors at the Whitley, UK, factory. Product development opened up massive opportunities for me that were not available to me in manufacturing.
What is the major challenge you have faced in your career?
Getting enough sleep.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
There have been great people throughout my working life who have helped me with great advice and opportunities. The person who had the biggest influence, however, was Miss MacLaren, who was a teacher I had when I was 13. She said to me: “Elizabeth, do you know you’re quite bright? You could do great things if you develop and focus on it.” Up until then I had never really taken education or my potential seriously. I had a natural ability but didn’t push myself and neither did my family. I took her advice to heart. My success today was triggered by that short and encouraging interaction as it instilled self belief, motivation and personal drive in me.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
We need more publicity regarding how exciting the industry is and the huge array of opportunities that come with it. There needs to be improved career advice offered in schools and through the different media that young females engage with. This includes providing early hands-on experience as well as presentations from women in the industry and the opportunity for shadowing. We need to encourage more men to join the industry as well. We need more bright young stars from every gender, race and background.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
I like to spend time with my son and friends. I also like to exercise outside, enjoy good food and just have fun.
What keeps you awake at night?
Not much. I’m normally so exhausted that I’m out like a light. Of course though, on rare occasions, common things do keep me awake such as a fear of failure or worrying about my family, friends and colleagues.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
As a child I spent most weekends in a tent on a rally field around England and Wales with my parents and siblings while my dad exhibited his stationary engines which he had lovingly restored. At the time I didn’t appreciate the experience this provided me with, such as my dad’s determination and enthusiasm and the wonderful times we spent outdoors at interesting places. I met different people and was exposed to mechanical things and engineering early on.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Nelson Mandela. I often wonder how he led a whole nation out of very dark times while putting his own suffering and anger aside. He united his country as a great leader with amazing amounts of patience, resilience, understanding and forgiveness. In industry, we can learn a lot from his style. Among the living I would love to meet England rugby coach Eddie Jones along with track and field athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill. Both are deeply inspiring. Jones because he lead a team from eighth in the world to second within months. That takes some leadership. Ennis-Hill because I admire her success, which is based on her own personal performance and no one else's.
If I had it to do all over again, I would ...
Seek out better career advice when I was at school. I would also try to leave the school with more knowledge about engineering and industry to advise pupils better in the future.
When and where was your last vacation?
We went to the beautiful Brechfa Forest in Wales with some of my university friends for our 40th birthdays. We took all of our children, too. We walked, biked, played cards, laughed and relaxed. Simple pleasures.
Name one talent you wish you had.
I’m totally tone deaf so I would love the ability to play some form of music well.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t ask lots of people for their opinion. It will only confuse you. Make up your own mind.
What advice would you give your child?
Always think you can. Then you probably will. If you think you can’t, then you won’t.
If you were a car, what car would you be?
A 1948 Land Rover Defender. It is unique, pioneering, innovative, determined, purposeful, crafted individually and long lasting.