Harnessing the passion of Ford’s most iconic models might be the coolest job ever.
Before she left Michigan for the assignment of launching the Lincoln brand in China, Amy Marentic saw the quote in her yoga studio: “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what it is made for.” She took it as a sign to be brave and step up to her next challenge: Leading Lincoln in the Chinese market. It was a huge and exciting undertaking, and personally, China would be an eye-opening experience for her and her family.
Until that moment, Amy had never lived anywhere other than Michigan. Her children grew up there and were well into their college experiences, so the timing was right. Amy and her husband moved to an entirely different world; her children came to spend summers and now remember them with happy fondness. She led a team that was 100% Chinese, and learned exactly what it meant to trust your team, to actively listen and what it means to be culturally aware and sensitive. She also brought back the knowledge “that when you make the biggest changes in your life, you grow the most. Don’t be afraid—it makes you open to change and to incredible experiences.” It was an experience that she would not trade for the world: she came home with traits and skills that have made her the humble and observant leader that she is today.
Leading Ford’s Future Through Its Passion-Driven Past
And, ready to take on perhaps the most visible chapter in Ford’s modern history: Ford Icons.
As Ford contemplated its future, what it means to its customers and the products it develops and evolves, an idea came into focus: Group these models together by passion and values rather than vehicle type. The result: Ford Icons. These vehicles are iconic not because Ford decided they were, but because their customers embrace them with passion, sentiment and pride. And, they are quintessentially Ford: the Mustang, Shelby GT, the Ford Ranger, the F-150 Raptor and the upcoming Bronco. These vehicles are the Ford DNA, they have a cult following and are evangelist makers. “These are the vehicles that no one needs, but that people love. They are just plain awesome.” When asked about her personal favorite, Amy paused for a moment, then shared that her favorite baby is “the GT500… probably because I had a chance to work on it with Carroll Shelby. Or because of my history with the Mustang.”
Engineer or Astronaut? A Mustang Inspired Her Choice
Amy’s first car love was her mom’s 1977 baby yellow Mustang. While she spoke of the snazzy white interior and the dust it gathered because her mom did not want to drive it in the brutal Michigan winters, she also told of cutting her eye-teeth on repairing the engine and carburetor of that less-than reliable vehicle. And, she had fun working on it with her Dad. That early experience was pivotal to her path to marketing after leaving the University of Michigan with a degree in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. There she gained an appreciation for the way that machines work and found sure footing in the STEM fields. When the time came to decide which career to pursue she narrowed it to two choices: become an astronaut or work in automotive. “Astronauts get one good ride,” she said. In automotive she “gets the excitement of doing something fun everyday.” It was a tough choice, but she isn’t one to look back. “Our decisions set our boundaries and then we need to be good with it.”
Breaking New Ground, and Leading the Way For Others
You would never guess upon first meeting Amy that this Ford Motors veteran is the ground-breaker that she is. Her 26-year journey has made her strong, humble, gracious, socially aware and ready for the next challenge. I caught up with Amy via videochat in the lead-up to her appearance at What Drives Her at the Chicago Auto Show where she’ll set the stage for a conversation about the auto industry and how women are driving change through marketing and building careers.
For Amy, a mindset of resilience and a willingness to learn has carried her through a career at Ford. From being willing to learn on the ground, inspired by those around you and to get into the nitty gritty of a job that no one else wanted has been important.
And, there’s a motto that has carried her though life, inscribed on a bracelet that her dad gave her on the 12th birthday: “Winners never quit.” He was her greatest cheerleader and taught her that “work ethic matters, and to keep trying. But most of all, be resilient and do the work.” She did the work, learned the lessons and did the work again. It is a process that is repeated often over the span of her career.
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Does Work Life Balance Really Exist? It’ll All Be Fine, and That’s OK
Actually, Amy does not believe in the myth of balance. “Something always has a priority. At different points, different parts will take the lead. Sometimes it will be your family. Sometimes it will be your career. Sometimes it will be your partner. Sometimes it will be opportunities.” Amy is firmly in the camp that it is what it is and that is fine. Actually, better than fine.
If there’s one modern idea she does uphold, it’s that you must prioritize taking care of yourself. “When you’ve taken care of yourself, you have the energy to take care of everything else.” She says to”set your boundaries for yourself. And then be ok with it. Be willing to take risks. Make decisions. Set your mind to it and move on.”
Innovating Icons For More of What Customers Love
In her day-to-day role she spends about half of the time working on strategies and plans for “products that are 5-10 years out,” and the other 50% “on the vehicles that are launching now.” Her team spends much of their time working on what they anticipate “their customers are wanting next” or meeting with Ford dealers to create solutions that will make lives easier and members of the Ford Family happy. Like her favorite innovation, available in the new 2020 Escape, the passive entry and start that allows you to unlock and start your car simply by having the key in proximity— thus alleviating the “I know my keys are in this purse somewhere” chaos. It’s these innovations that solve the small day-to-day annoyances, that set the path for the future and that embrace us with the passion of a brand we know and love. And, it’s what has her looking to the future with excitement.
What Does the Captain of the Ford Icons Ship Have in Her Fleet?
Of course, owning a Mustang has been precious to her; but she’s also spent time with an F-150 Raptor, a Ford Explorer SE and an older model Shelby GT500 that she worked on with Carroll Shelby. And, she’s eagerly awaiting the 2020 GT500, which just made its debut in late 2019.
In captaining the Ford Icons ship, what is she looking forward to most? Amy smiles. The upcoming Bronco has been redesigned and innovated with “women in mind.” There’s excitement on the horizon and navigating it is clearly what Amy was made to do.