Women in Business: Inspired to Achieve



Ford Executive and MBA Alumna Lists Her Inspirations

"It's important to like what you do and the people you do it for."

Kim Plummer.Kim Plummer, director of pension asset management at Ford Motor Company, says she likes what she does and she clearly likes working for Ford, her corporate home for more than ten years since receiving her Illinois MBA in 1994.

During her time at Ford, the automobile giant headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Plummer has had ten jobs and more than ten bosses. That rotation is routine at Ford and Plummer feels she has benefited from the practice. She's learned a lot and shared her observations with the conference attendees at the second Women's Leadership Conference held in mid-February on the Urbana campus. Conference organizers asked her to talk about what inspires her to achieve, a subject she says she hadn't give a lot of thought to prior to the request. She answered that question though and also offered some lessons learned in her professional life.

People are Kim Plummer's source of inspiration -- the people she works for, the people she works with, and the people who work for her. She says she learns constantly from the people for whom she works, citing their leadership and example. Although colleagues can be competitive or collaborative and friendly or cut-throat, she values their viewpoints and perspectives. Plummer offered a bit of advice to the graduate students attending the conference: corporate culture is reflected in the people who conduct job interviews. Watch and listen carefully to try to understand the environment in which you might work. And decide if that culture is a good fit for you.

She saves her highest praise for the people who work for her. They provide her with energy and inspiration. "You can't let them down," she says. "They watch everything you do, everything." She told a story about the first time she had staff reporting to her - perhaps five people. Young and single, Plummer routinely worked ten- to twelve-hour days. She never specified work hours, holding people accountable for the end results, not the time it took to obtain those results. Following her lead, her staff worked those same long hours, skipping soccer practices and school plays. Resentment grew. When she finally recognized what was happening, she took steps to let her staff know that the results mattered, not the time clock.

Another bit of her advice is to be very careful mixing your social life with your business life. "Your professionalism needs to stay untarnished," she says noting that rumors and stories become water cooler talk that can linger for years.

Kim Plummer also offered a short list of life lessons. First is to "know yourself, your limits, and your gut." Being passionate about what you do and the people with whom you work are second and third on her list. Lastly she urges balance of work and personal life. But she doesn't believe that the balance is 50-50. Rather she views the balance as a sign wave, changing over time with work being more prevalent sometimes and personal time taking center stage at other times. The critical factor, she says, is that over time, you achieve a balance. "Define your balance and define it early."

About the Speaker

Kim Plummer was named director of pension asset management at Ford in July 2004. She is responsible for Ford's more than $80 million in global pension funds. She has served as Ford's director of global banking and short-term funding and was a financial analyst in product development, manufacturing, and powertrain operations. She resides in Dearborn, Michigan.

--Ginny Hudak-David
February 2005