What drives her: the woman who manages the Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Alana Strager may have inherited her love of big trucks from her father, but she is passing along her passion to her daughter.
Alana, Program Management Analyst on the Ford F-150, spoke on a panel of “Today’s Woman – Built Tough” and then chatted about how she remains a self-professed “girly-girl’ while being in charge of American’s iconic truck.
Is there a Chanel version of the F-150 in the truck’s future?
Alana’s dream ride would be a Chanel-blinged F-150 and says that her car company job doesn’t preclude a “love for Chanel, Prada, Tory Burch.” She strides confidently into work, into a man’s world, where “my cheetah print shoes give me zero credibility.” So she says she works very quickly to establish credibility.
Researching customers needs by talking to them in parking lots
As much as Alana enjoys piloting a large truck – and treasures her early time at Ford spent worked on all of the Harley-Davidson Super Duty trucks – she knows that for most pickup truck customers, utility is the most important factor. So she follows customers in Home Depot parking lots, talking to them when they are loading up a truck and asking what their frustrations are.
One thing she found out was that everyone demanded more tie downs, When she started the research, trucks always had four, with nothing in the mid box. This led to her favorite innovation; in the newly redesigned F-150 pickups, there are multiple ways to tie down, with a box link that accepts universal cleats and dividers. Alana pointed this out as one way that she has worked to help Ford customers to do things as easily as possible.
In addition to the movable BoxLink, Alana’s innovations team has introduced LED headlamps, cargo box lights, a360-degree camera and power tailgate lock and release to the F-150.
Designing for ‘Joe’
Alana noted that “trucks are for people, so they can help other people.” So she invented a fictional profile of a pickup truck customer to figure out who the F-150 is designed for. She created Joe, a construction worker, and her team had to help Joe help HIS customers. She called this “the socialization of what we are doing, seeing the big picture.” If a detail was changed on the pickup truck, there had to be a reason, something that would “help Joe.” Her deep understanding of who the customer is may be the result of her dual degree, in psychology degree and engineering.
Not always a trucker
Alana’s first car was a 1996 Pontiac Firebird, in midnight blue. It really served as her second and third car, too – she drove it for 234,000 miles. Now she says she is in and out the F-150 all day at work, and drives a Ford Explorer, in which she and her daughter put the seats down and pretend to camp.
Like father, like daughter
Alana’s favorite inside cab feature is the drop down in front door, which increases visibility for the driver and helps you see smaller vehicle. Her father, Melvin Strager, program manager for Ford Trucks actually invented that on heavy trucks. Alana has introduced into other Ford trucks, and she pointed out that in the new F150, the drop down has been further accentuated to offer increased visibility along with a feeling of openness. She loves the feeling in the trucks of being in open space; along with the oversized windshield, she said the drop down openness is “like a breath of fresh air.”
Alana started her Ford career over 20 years ago, while she was still in college, and worked with her father for awhile; he told her she had to be “better than everyone else.” He encouraged her to problem solve from a young age; when she followed him onto the roof one day, he came down and took the ladder away before even realizing she was up there. He asked the five year old Alana how she would get down, so she jumped. When he saw she wasn’t hurt, he pronounced her ‘one gutsy broad.”
And she still takes no guff from anyone. When she was driving a F-150 pickup truck guy pulled up and asked “what’s a little girl like you doing in that big truck.” She told him, “anything I want.”
Like mother, like daughter
Like her mom, Alana’s daughter is fiercely loyal to Ford. Alana said one day she picked her daughter up in a vehicle from another brand, and her daughter said, “I am not getting into this.” She explained that as part of her job, she look at competitor’s vehicles, to see what we can do better. Her daughter, who is nine years old, got in and thoughtfully noted that while the seats weren’t as comfortable as in her usual ride, “it was not as terrible as I thought it would be.”