SHANGHAI, China – Jennifer Gilhool, director, Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa (APA), recently relocated from Dearborn to Shanghai to drive the alignment of Ford’s engineering strategy with market place regulation across the region. She spoke with @Ford about her impressive career at Ford, her challenges, achievements and personal life.
Q: What is your group responsible for in APA?
A: The Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering (SE&SE) organisation helps set corporate strategies aligned with our Safe and Green pillars, delivering regulatory information to the engineering community. The strategy and regulatory information enable Ford to deliver compliant products into the market place.
Q: When did you first join Ford and what has your career involved since?
A: In August of 1998, I moved from a private law practice to Ford Motor Company’s Office of the General Counsel in Dearborn, where my work focused on product litigation for the company.
My years at Ford have been both challenging and rewarding with a wide range of exciting experiences and career opportunities. In 2002, I transitioned to the regulatory side of Ford's business and served as legal counsel for the company's North American Car and Truck division on safety and compliance matters.
In 2005, I began my work with the North American Automotive Safety Office as Manager of Ford's Advance Safety Rulemaking and Strategic Planning division. That gave me the opportunity to lead an excellent team charged with developing the North American safety strategy, setting and refining our safety policies and working with government organisations and NGOs to develop safety regulations and public domain (NCAP) rating systems.
Between 2007 and 2009, my regulatory role expanded and I became responsible for reviewing SE&SE processes related to both environmental and safety regulations at first as Manager of Process Integration, then as Regional Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. My role as Regional Manager served to broaden my perspective to a global scale and last year, my role was expanded to include the development of the SE&SE globalisation plan.
I have now been given a remarkable opportunity to help execute the plan and have moved to Ford APA’s Shanghai office. I am truly excited about the work I will be engaged in here in Asia and committed to helping SE&SE grow in this region.
Q: What are your core values?
A: People working together, building excellence in our people and our products and finding ways to enjoy the journey. I am particularly looking forward to this portion of my personal journey at Ford.
Q: What is your working style?
A: I believe we can all work best when we work collaboratively. My style tends to be less formal than you might expect from a lawyer. I am decisive but strongly value the opinions and view points of others.
Q: What would say have been your greatest accomplishments and challenges so far?
A: I am proud of the work we did on the SE&SE globalisation plan. It was a learning experience at every level and helped me gain a deep understanding of the way SE&SE operates around the globe.
The decision to change my career path from law to the business of SE&SE presented some unique challenges. I was moving from a legal career into an engineering-based organisation and while my responsibilities did not include engineering, it was an unusual change of mind sets! Taking that risk has been very rewarding.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1989 with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, majoring in Finance. In 1994, I received my law degree from the University of Michigan.
Q: What did you do after attending law school?
A: After graduation, I had a Public Interest Fellowship in Chicago, Illinois, where I provided free legal counsel to women and families in need of legal services. After taking the Bar Exam, I joined Jenner & Block in Chicago and began my legal career in private practice. My practice focused on litigation for large corporate clients as well as pro bono work for those unable to afford legal services.
Q: What are your career and educational goals?
A: My immediate career goal is to execute the SE&SE globalisation plan in APA with the help of the SE&SE Leadership Team. Longer term, I hope to continue to contribute to the success of Ford Motor Company with the opportunity to take on new challenges.
Q: How long have you been in Shanghai and what do you think?
A: I have been in Shanghai for almost three months and I really love it. The APA team has been very welcoming and supportive and I am discovering all of the new things that can make Shanghai a great place to live and work.
Q: Do you have a family and will they be joining you in Shanghai?
A: Yes, my husband of 20 years, along with my two lovely daughters, ages 14 and 9, and son, age 10, will all be arriving in Shanghai soon – even our dog Wrigley is making the trip! I am very excited to see them and cannot wait for them to enjoy Shanghai as much as I am. This is a wonderful adventure for our entire family.
In addition to my immediate family, I have 5 brothers and sisters and a large extended family. I expect some of them will take advantage of our being in Shanghai to visit China.
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