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Meet Linda Zhang – She’s Electric

Meet Linda Zhang – She’s Electric

By: Cathy Droz – Founder, HER Certified

Download Interview transcript here: HER Certified Interview Linda Zhang (5 downloads)

If you haven’t seen the latest Ford commercial where a Ford F-150 truck pulls one million pounds of rail
cars 1,000 feet, and then adds 42 F-150 trucks in to the rail cars adding up to 1.3 million pounds, you are
missing out on an interesting demonstration of power. What a boundless way to illustrate the capability
of a Military Grade All-Aluminum truck and as the Chief Engineer, Linda Zhang says… “It’s Electric”.
The story line for the commercial starts with Ford inviting five Ford F-150 legacy owners to meet at the
rail yard with Ford’s Chief Executive Engineer, Linda Zhang. Linda explains what she plans to do and
then reveals that the truck that will pull all this weight 1,000 feet is the F-150 “electric” prototype.
While I was impressed with the truck, the rail cars, music and photography, I was most impressed with
Linda for a few reasons. Here is a young female Chief Engineer at one of the most respected and largest
auto manufacturers in the world. I wanted to know how she got there, why the automotive industry,
and could she balance a position like that raising a family and working in a male dominated industry?
I asked a series of questions about work, family, female equality and charging stations. Here are some of
her answers.

HER Certified: How many years have you been with Ford?

Linda: I have been with Ford for 23 years serving in several positions, such as finance, corporate strategy,
manufacturing, and product development; this last position leading to my current role of chief engineer
on several Ford models. Working on the electric truck has been very exciting and rewarding.

Why the F-150?

The Ford F-150 is already a “Ford Tough” vehicle. It is a high strength military grade truck with an
aluminum body. The electric and instant torque provides a great combination creating the ability of
towing a million pounds. People don’t realize the capabilities of an all-electric vehicle.

With an all – electric truck that will be available in the next few years, will there be enough charging
stations? Will the truck come with its own charging cord like the existing electric cars.

Your question about charging stations is a good one and we do want to make sure there is the ability to
charge these trucks conveniently. Ford is planning for that to ensure the infrastructure is in place.

Do you know when you will roll this out and approximate retail cost?

I do not. However, our Hybrid F-150 will be out in 2020.

So, you worked under former President, Alan Mullaly, one of my favorite people.

Yes, I was in finance and strategy at that time and enjoyed his leadership and dedication to the
organization and our people. A strong leader.

In your department are there other female engineers and other women working on this project?

Yes – we are equally balanced in gender and all forms of diversity. In fact, a female is the plant manager
in Dearborn, Michigan and a woman is our vehicle line director. We are very strong in terms of diversity
and inclusion.

You mentioned in an article that you have children. Women are always interested to hear how other
working moms handle it. Any secrets?

I have a 15 year old daughter, and a 13 year old son that require less care than when they were little,
but my awesome husband, parents, in laws and I work as a team. I also have a great team at Ford where
the culture of the company is to “communicate” your needs with your co-workers, supervisors and
department heads. We help each other as all of us have obligations outside of our work environment.
The culture of the company and their philosophy has allowed me to balance my family life and work life.
A happy employee is a good and prosperous employee. I’ve found communicating on all levels is the
best way to handle a problem, question or suggestion. Ford was very supportive when I needed to work
different hours to accommodate the family when they were young. Again, I communicated my needs
and it all worked out. We are a true team, the village that everyone says you need to raise a family.

What did you want to be growing up?

I liked science and engineering (STEM) and knew I wanted to do something in that area. I even started
in Pre Med but found that a loss of a patient affected me tremendously. During my course choices I was
in several automotive classes which I liked , so I applied to Ford and here I am 23 years with a company I
truly care about and haven’t lost a car or truck yet.

Who in your life motivated you?

I would have to say my parents. As immigrants to the United States I watched them go through a
significant transition. They had the opportunity to attend graduate school and as a result, placed a high
value on education for our family. My siblings and I wanted to follow their lead… and we did. I am
grateful to them for how we were raised.

Your children referred to you as a superhero, if you could give yourself a superhero name what would it
be?

Oh My, I have never thought about it… I have no idea.

 

Well, check with your children, but in the meantime what you have accomplished deserves a cape and a
hard hat. Ford tough and that goes for Linda Zhang as well.

Download Interview transcript here: HER Certified Interview Linda Zhang (5 downloads)
For more about Ford and the Ford F-150 Electric go to: https://medium.com/live-electric/tough-goes-electric-c03fc780dee7

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