Interview with Autocar’s GBWIA Winner Emma King, Senior Purchasing Manager, at Ford

Congratulations Emma! How does it feel to not only be recognised in the GBWIA top 100 Rising stars, but to be the winner of the purchasing category and the overall winner?

Firstly, thank you! It really is a great honour, not to mention quite unexpected. I am very thankful to everyone at Autocar and SMMT for recognising me with such a prestigious award. I have had a huge number of colleagues, friends and supplier contacts reach out to me since the announcement came out, with some lovely messages. I thoroughly enjoy working in this industry and am very fortunate to work as part of such a great team - it is truly a shared success and it feels great that everyone is so genuinely excited.

I feel very thankful for being considered for this award alongside such accomplished female talent. I am looking forward to connecting with some of the other award winners when I am next back in London.

Can you talk us through your career path from starting as a Commercial Vehicle Buyer at Ford to now a Senior Purchasing Manager?

Of course – it’s been an interesting and varied journey for me, and I am fortunate to have had some great opportunities globally.

I came to Ford in 2007 having studied Industrial Design and Technology at university and then worked for 18months as a Design Engineer. I have always had a real passion for the automotive world, which is why I pursued a career at Ford.

I started out as a Program Buyer in Commercial Vehicles, working on the Transit and Transit Connect at our development centre in Dunton, Essex. Around 2 years in, I took a rotation into Commodity Purchasing (my first internal job move) where I bought a suite of engine components for our European plants. From there I progressed to a global lead role (still in Engines) buying Gasoline Fuel Injection Systems.

In 2012 I moved into my first management role in Global Programs Purchasing in a department called Advanced Programs. This role looked at our early program planning and was very varied in nature. One of the aspects I enjoyed most was having supervisory responsibility for a team of people based in our plant in Romania (Craiova) – I used to frequently travel there and learned a lot from them, their culture and their expertise. I even had the opportunity (with their excellent advice) to combine some personal holiday with one of my business trips and explore the country on the train network.

In July 2014 I was selected for the Purchasing Leadership Program, in its inaugural year, and with that had the opportunity to take a cross-functional rotation where I worked in Engine Engineering, based in Dagenham (UK) – a really great learning experience for me.

It was actually while I was planning my next rotational assignment that I was offered a brand new and exciting opportunity to take a senior manager role located in our offices in India. I moved to Chennai in September 2015 to take on a position where I had regional responsibility for powertrain installed (vehicle fit) components with a team spread across India, China and Thailand. We worked with our internal departments, as well as JV partners, to define optimal sourcing strategies and deliver best cost for the region. We also worked on developing new relationships with China suppliers for emerging powertrain and electrification technologies. One of the most rewarding aspects to my position was also being able to contribute to local recruitment and people development activities and set up a new mentoring program for our employees in Purchasing.

In the summer of 2018, I was asked to take over global purchasing responsibility for Ford’s Electric Vehicle battery cells/arrays, based in our Engineering centre in Dearborn, MI. This is a really exciting space to be involved in right now, as Ford invests heavily in an electric future and we are able to see our actions translate into tangible business benefits across the globe.

Where will you aim to be in the future?

Ultimately I want to be adding value and doing something meaningful. The more time I spend in this business the more I feel I want to be in a position to make the kinds of decisions that will drive it forward. Beyond that, while it is good to be ambitious, I have learned that the pathway to the most rewarding roles is being open to new possibilities, including those that you probably would never have thought of.

With our product plans we look at the now/near/far. This is a reflection of the fact that the automotive/mobility industry is evolving rapidly and we have to be nimble to stay at the forefront. I believe this applies equally to our people and our technologies

How do you think automotive companies can motivate and retain high potential women like yourself?

Looking internally, I think the key is creating a positive environment that is both nurturing/encouraging but at the same time pushes you to be your best. Company culture plays a big part here, and one of the things I appreciate most about Ford.

It is important to celebrate success, create positive role models and connect with the human story. Nobody is perfect and everybody faces setbacks or challenges at some point in their career; there is considerable value in sharing this learning, through internal forums as well as personal connections and mentoring. This in turn helps build resilience as well as a powerful, positive network.

Then looking externally, engagement with young adults is important via connections with schools, colleges, universities etc. This helps to create better awareness of the diverse career paths that exist and connect the learning environment with practical, tangible application.

What advice would you give to young women in the automotive sector just starting their career and who are eager to progress?

Be open, flexible and take roles that force you to step outside your comfort zone – this is where you will learn and grow the most, and perhaps surprise yourself in the process.

Why do you feel it’s important to recognise women within the automotive industry with awards like these?

We are at an inflection point in the industry where we see new technologies, combined with changes in consumer habits, really challenging the concepts/precedent of mobility. This is a time to be celebrating diversity as being key to unlocking both business and product success. These types of award contribute to a very positive momentum which celebrates diversity of thought and experience, and demonstrates that this is an exciting industry where those with potential can excel.

This award, in particular, recognizes women who are at the early stages of their careers. Demonstrating what that looks like is beneficial in both encouraging and motivating others, showing that you do not need to have been everywhere and done everything to be successful.

I feel extremely honoured to be nominated alongside some amazing female talent and hope that our stories can, in turn, inspire others.

 

The UK Automotive 30% Club recently launched their Inspiring Automotive Women Awards. Show appreciation and recognition for the contributions and efforts of a woman who inspires you by nominating them for an Inspiring Automotive Women Award via our nominations form here.

 

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