Marcy Fisher, Vehicle Line Director, Ford Mustang
Changing what used to be a man’s world by designing a celebrated car and coaching women to follow in her footsteps
You may think of the Ford Mustang as the ultimate muscle car. But the brains behind the 50th anniversary edition of this iconic car is a woman: Marcy Fisher. In our new series What Drives Her, we talk with Fisher, an engineer who has spent her career at Ford, and chatted about her passion, her path and what led to her leading one of the most important model redesigns of the era, one that Ford will celebrate all year with a unique campaign called Icon50.
AGirlsGuidetoCars.com (SBC): Describe the first car you designed and your reaction the first time you saw it on the assembly line or street.
Fisher: As I went through my career, I went from ‘owning’ one part [of a car] to the vehicle level. There was so much joy seeing a car driving down the road and thinking, “that’s MY bumper. I did that!”
With Mustang, I am having the most fun ever around a vehicle. I got excited just seeing the sheet metal, realizing that was going to become a new Mustang.
SBC: What kind of car do you drive?
You have to put an ’s’ on that – I have several cars. For daily use, I have an Explorer sport, which is a lot of fun to drive. I have a limited edition Mustang on order, as well as a Mustang convertible.
The first car that I bought myself was a Mercury Cougar, right before I joined Ford.
SBC: Where does your passion for Mustang come from?
Growing up in the Detroit area, cars just get into your blood. So many are people interested in them. I remember noting cars that I thought were cool. I can still picture in my head my first sighting of a Mustang convertible and thinking ‘what’s that?’
That’s the spirit of Mustang. It draws you in, you want to be in it. People have a very emotional response to it, which accounts for its longevity.
SBC: What is your favorite Mustang year?
It’s very cliched. 2015 is an obvious answer – my heart and soul have gone into this car. I’ve spent years working on it, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
Set that aside: I really love the 65. I owned a high performance model in burgundy.
SBC: Are you a top-down kind of driver?
Definitely. My son has a Mustang convertible, but I never had one that I consider mine. I love convertibles, but now I’ll have my first ever. I look forward to driving it in nice weather.
SBC: Can you drive a stick shift? Who taught you how?
Oh yes, of course. I learned how to drive a stick when I was 15 years, 11 months and 2 weeks old. It was 2 weeks before my 16th birthday. My dad bought a new family car, a stick shift. I was scheduled to take my driver’s test on my birthday and I had 2 weeks to learn. He taught me how to drive it and I took my test in that car.
SBC: How did you choose your career path?
This goes back to high school. You’ve got to love your mom. My mom was really helpful in providing some options, talking about career paths. “Here’s what you’re good at, what sorts of jobs align with that.”
I looked at the newspapers, at job ads and saw a lot of engineering jobs. I really like math and science, so it was straight forward; I studied engineering at the University of Michigan.
SBC: Did you have a mentor, and have you mentored?
Absolutely. I think everybody needs a mentor to navigate through a career. Some have been formal, others more informal. I started out in manufacturing, which was challenging but there were inspirational women who had been there long before me and forged some trails.
In my career, I’ve mentored dozens and since I’m at a global company, I mentor people all over the world. I chair our Global Products Development Committee and am a lead executive recruiter at U of M [University of Michigan].
SBC: How can schools help attract people to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields ?
I worked with a group of students at U of M this summer. They have a really great program to encourage students in this field.
It was one of the most exciting group of students I’ve spoken to. The program works to ensure that student are successful, training them on how to study, manage their time, use professor’s office hours, how to work in groups.
I talked with them about how this translates to something to use in your life: here’s how that knowledge applies to something that I worked on today at Ford, a vibration issue, a cooling issue, a materials issue.
I also spoke to high school students about careers in the auto industry. I had to relate what they could study into doing something cool: for example, how would you like to be the person who determines what powertrains to put into a Mustang?
SBC: What would you tell women who might be interested in a career like yours?
You have to look at what you love. I love this, I love what I do. I encourage anyone to find something that you are passionate about.
I came home one day and my son, who was in high school, said “I know what I want to be. I want to be a powertrain calibrator.” He had looked on the Internet and found that job and read description. Now he’s studying engineering.
SBC: How have you seen things change over your career?
I’ve been here 28 years and the number of women in the industry – both in total and specifically at Ford, has been increasing ever since I got here. There is an increasing involvement of women, both in design and manufacturing.
Note: this interview has been edited.