Jennifer Brace User Interface Design Engineer>

When Jennifer Brace the Ford Motor Company User Interface Design Engineer isn’t envisioning how to incorporate that newest vehicle feature into the MyFord menu, she can often be found on the volleyball court year-round, playing on several women and coed teams. “Summers are for the sand and winters are for indoor play on hard courts,” she says.

She also spends time dreaming about that 1967 Shelby Cobra (blue with white racing stripes) she wants to own someday; a dream she has had since she was a little girl hitting the car show circuit with her dad, an engineering technologist at Ford. “Growing up, summer weekends with the family were always spent at car shows,” says Brace. “My dad has been building classic street rods since before I was born and I always loved spending time in the garage with him.”

Who mentored you in this industry to help you get started?
One of my first mentors was Amy Garby, a fellow Ford colleague who, like me, was deeply involved in human machine interface (HMI) here at Ford. It was great to have a woman to look up to as I grew in my own career here.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
Having voice control over my music and phone are huge—and not just because that’s my area of work. I also love rear park aid. Really love it. I refuse to own any car without it. And living in Michigan means heated seats are a must—I use it 10 months out of the year. Even when it’s warm.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
Certainly there are challenges—part of the problem is that we don’t have as many women going into engineering when they enter college, so naturally, once everyone graduates and starts their careers, you look around and it’s largely men. Fortunately, there are a lot of women at Ford in all levels of the management chain. I’m proud to be at a company that treats me as an individual and despite being a minority I tend to forget that I’m often the only woman in the room. I get treated as an equal. My voice is heard and that’s important.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
In Michigan where I grew up, my father would spend weekends building street rods. So I was always in the garage helping him. My father also worked for Ford so when I had an opportunity to intern at Ford during college, I already knew it’d be a good fit.

What was your first automotive job?
Being an assistant to my dad, handing him tools at the ripe old age of four.

Proudest professional achievement?
By far, it’s what we’ve accomplished with MyFordTouch. I started with user interface when it was just a concept and now I’ll be driving somewhere, sitting at a light and see someone using the voice activated system and think, “we did that.” It’s so rewarding. We’ll always be pushing ourselves, asking what can we do next, but seeing a concept go from idea to industry leader was a proud moment.

Current challenge at work?
The hardest part of my job is keeping up with the pace of technology. You have to always work to stay on top of it, not to let your thinking go obsolete. Another interesting challenge is how best to develop technology that’s useful for the entire range of Ford customers, from young, tech savvy drivers to those for whom this technology is all new.

Dream job?
I really like where I’m at. I work on the latest and greatest and then I get to see it live on the road. It’s great fun but if I had to pick a dream job it would be a judge on Iron Chef.

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