Allison Stephens Ford HerHighway

Allison Stephens Ford Technical Specialist in Ergonomics>

Allison Stephens, Ford Technical Specialist in Ergonomics. Lead researcher in the use of Motion Capture technology and Digital Human modeling development. In 2010 Stephens was awarded the Henry Ford Technical Award, the highest technical award given in Ford Motor Company for Innovation.

Stephens uses both advanced motion-capture technology – similar techniques were used to make the film Avatar – and human modeling software to bring digital employee avatars to life. In this virtual manufacturing world, Stephens is able to find ways to reduce the physical stress of assembly workers, lower costs, and bring better quality products to market faster.

Stephens does this with the help of avatars, Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill have been a part of the Ford family since 2005 and allow Stephens and her team to assemble a virtual vehicle and digitally assess the building process long before a model is ready to be manufactured.

HerHighway’s Editor in Chief Christina Selter sat down with Allison in Southern California for a one on one interview regarding how the automotive industry has opportunities for women and why it is so important for women to seek a career in automotive. The video is coming soon, but for now enjoy some of the Q&A below.

Who have you mentored who did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
A plant Manager at the first Ford plant I worked, really supported me and the field of Ergonomics which was really just beginning back then. When he moved back to the USA he asked if I could come to the USA and start the ergonomics program for Ford North America.

I have always remembered how it felt to have someone believe in me and the possibilities. I have tried to show this enthusiasm and support to the new ergonomists that I hire.  Recently two of my long term ergonomists were promoted to Technical Specialists in Powertrain Operations.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
As a mom – the separate DVD players in the rear seat.
As a Driver, I love gadgets – rear camera reverse, blind spot recognition on the side mirrors and parallel park feature is lots of Fun!

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
It is not so much difficult but more so that you are a minority. The field of Engineering is predominately male, so that leads to more males in the positions.  You just have to approach situations knowing that you are coming from a female perspective and that needs to be explained sometimes.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
I love the dynamic nature of the Auto industry. New products, new designs, every day is something different.

First automotive job?
I started at the Ford St Thomas Assembly plant in the industrial Engineering department.

Proudest professional achievement?
2011 Henry Ford Technical; 2011 Practitioner of the year award from IIE – 2011 was a good year J

Current challenge at work?
We are going Global with all our engineering and ergonomic processes. It is both exciting and challenging. The language barriers, the time zones and then the regional standards make for interesting days!

Dream job?
I have it! I have to say this year being selected to go on the virtual Reality tour and share my story has really sealed the deal…I do have the best job going.

What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
I am  a runner and am hoping to run the Chicago Marathon in Oct 2012. I love skiing and am hoping to get one more ski trip in before I declare winter over!

What you do to relax?
I love crafts, I make handmade cards and try to send birthday cards on time!