Linda Cash, 54
Vice president of manufacturing, Ford of Europe
Name: Linda Cash
Title: Vice president of manufacturing
Company: Ford of Europe
Location: Cologne, Germany
Family: Husband, Franklin; daughter, Shetoria; son, Matthew
Born: Brunswick, Georgia, USA
Education: MBA from the University of Phoenix; bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology
What attracted you to the auto industry?
I actually wasn't specifically looking to get into the auto industry. But after I graduated a great opportunity presented itself and I took it.
First automotive job:
I was an entry-level industrial engineer at Ford's assembly plant in Atlanta, Georgia.
What was your big break?
The leadership team in Atlanta determined that I had great potential and promoted me to my first management position in a non-typical role. I was named manufacturing engineering manager. My success in that role opened many other doors and I continued to progress from there. My other really big break was having a husband who was extremely supportive and agreed with me that when the time was right for us, I could be mobile. We've taken this journey together.
What major challenge have you faced in your career?
In general, time management. There is always more to do than time to do it so you must stay on task. Additionally, it is critical to maintain balance in your life and know when and how to have your down time. From a specific project perspective, it was opening a new plant at the Rouge River complex in Dearborn, Michigan. New people, new product, new processes, in a new facility. It was extremely challenging.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I could not possibly narrow this down to one person. There have been so many great people in my life both in and out of the business. Suffice it to say that it all started with my parents, who gave me my work ethic and my approach to excellence. I have learned what to do and what not to do from many leaders, peers, and team members and have packaged these things to become the leader that I am.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
Visits to schools to introduce who we are, what we do, and the incredible opportunities available help the most I think. Additionally, making our diversity at all levels more publicly known creates interest and encouragement as well.
What's your favorite weekend activity?
Music. A good jazz concert is always a winner but there are many things I love to do and as long as it's a weekend what's not to love?
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing! Are you kidding? After a really busy day, which is every day, and a good prayer, I sleep quite peacefully.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
I love to read and I actually love the physical book so my great plan has always been to own a bookstore one day. I've had this grand plan including details for the store design for a very long time. Unfortunately, the move to e-reading has put a damper on my plan and I need a new business model.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
My parents. My father died when I was a teenager and my mother more recently. It would be incredible to have dinner with them together.
If I had it to do all over again, I would ...
Most likely do what I have done. Even with the ups and downs, twists and turns, it's been a terrific journey. I am grateful to God for this life exactly as it has been.
When and where was your last vacation?
It was to Rome, Italy, in June.
Name one talent you wish you had.
It's not so much a talent, but more a skill: I would like to be multi-lingual. I'm talking about being able to speak and read five or six languages.
Best advice you've ever received?
There are two: Let your word be your bond and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
What advice would you give your child?
My children get to hear my long list of things quite often. There are many. I think what I tell them most often is: All things are possible with God – keep your priorities straight.
If you were a car, what car would you be?
A smooth, elegant, new-generation Lincoln Continental.